Guest Blog by Katie Robinson, Co-Founder of Harmony in Nature, September 2021
‘I walk my dog every day.’
‘I meet my friends weekly for a walk.’
‘I go for a run three times a week; does that count?’
‘I get great benefit from doing my 10,000 steps most days.’
Of course we can continue these positive activities. And, we can enhance our experience when we add something new into our lifestyle.
For example, if our usual supermarket doesn’t stock something new we want to try, do we not even look elsewhere? Of course not; we’ll find out where we can find it. Forest bathing is simply a different way to be out in nature and woodland, with different benefits from these other activities. It’s not an ‘either/or’ scenario.
To answer the title question with another question: Where is your mind when you do these activities?
Is it noticing the details of what is immediately around? Or the mind and body sensations? Personally, my mind would be clocking up the steps, or the landmarks indicating I’m half way, or wondering how far away until my stop at the coffee shop as a reward, or chatting with my friend, or checking the dog hasn’t disappeared. Dogs are very mindful, but owners checking on them cannot be. This is why our walks currently do not include children and dogs. This is total ‘me’ time.
Our minds are wonderful things; always busy and looking for problems to solve to keep active. However, years of this often leads to it being stuck on ‘doing’ and ‘fixing’. With forest bathing, we can leave this behind for a while.
I notice the texture of the many tree barks; I stop to smell the variety of new growth or layers of the soil, noticing how clean it smells and how uplifting that feels; or I allow my attention to be drawn to the many patterns in the tree canopy above. I can use my senses in a directed way that brings out the wonderment in nature I felt as a child; I breathe deeply and appreciate the power and healing we get from a high-oxygen environment; I notice the tiny things.
Forest bathing adds another way to be in nature and has enhanced our lives immeasurably. Giving ourselves 2-3 hours to meander around in woodland is a great act of self care, and a common realisation by participants is that the permission to do this is so valuable.
They realise how little we notice normally, and get great joy and excitement from re-discovering small elements they hadn’t paid attention to in a long time, if ever. Immersing ourselves in all the forest has to offer (hence the ‘bathing’) is eye opening for many. The sights, sounds, smells and feel of the forest, as we each experience it, brings us into the present moment, away from the upset of the past and worry about the future that hasn’t yet happened. We simply ‘are’ and the forest accompanies us, being its beautiful self, just waiting to be noticed, to calm and reset us, and never judging us for the failures we perceive in ourselves.
WHAT MAY HAPPEN AS A RESULT OF FOREST BATHING?
Forest bathing, and in particular Forest Bathing+, which we embrace at Harmony In Nature and through our training at The Forest Bathing Institute, could be considered an amalgam of nature therapy, mindfulness and meditation, as well as its own thing. As such, there are decades of scientific research into what happens when we experience nature, do things mindfully, breathe consciously or follow a guided meditation. The (mainly) Japanese research into forest bathing has shown that we may potentially experience any or several of the following:
- reduced stress and cortisol levels
- improved heart and circulatory system
- improved digestive and respiratory issues
- reduced anxiety, depression and rumination
- improved decision-making, motivation, creativity
- increase in sense of connection with nature, self and others
- balanced blood sugar
- boosted immune function through increased production of 'Natural Killer'-NK-cells and anti-cancer proteins, lasting 2-4 weeks
Fundamentally, it brings our nervous system back into balance, which regulates our hormones and our nervous system, and resets our mind and body functions. Some participants express experiencing emotions they hadn’t allowed themselves to feel recently, and this felt safe, and it passed. Some say how energised they felt, others how sleepy.
In its simplest form, forest bathing combines the physiological benefits of nature’s presence with the meditative aspects of closely observing without judgement. What we feel as a result is ultimately influenced by what we each need at that point- sleep, energy, creativity, a sense of peace, wonderment. Our minds and bodies will give us what we need, when we allow them space to do so. That’s why we go forest bathing.
Forest Bathing+ Sessions with Joanna & Katie
We have Harmony in Nature forest bathing sessions at:
Cannon Hill Common, London SW20, 11-1.30 on Thursday 9th September
Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary, Shere, 11-2 on Sunday 19th September
Newlands Corner, Guildford, Surrey, 10.30-1.30 on Saturday 2nd October
Horsell Common, Woking, Surrey, 11-1.30 on Tuesday 12th October
Cannon Hill Common, London SW20, 11-1.30 on Thursday 14th October
Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary, Shere, 11-2 on Sunday 17th October
Newlands Corner, Guildford, Surrey, 10.30-12.30 on Saturday 30th October
Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary, Shere, 11-1 on Saturday 13th November
Newlands Corner, Guildford, Surrey, 10.30-12.30 on Saturday 4th December
Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary, Shere, 11-1 on Saturday 11th December
Book any of the above sessions via Harmony Healing Shop
Important News about Newlands Corner
Newlands Corner, our beautiful site in Guildford Surrey, have put up our site rental price so much that we don't know if we will be able to continue working there. We had to cancel our September event as the cost wasn't going to be covered. So, if you want to join us Newlands Corner, please book in ASAP for one of our pre-Christmas dates as it ls unlikely to feature as a 2022 destination. We will be forced to cancel Newlands events one week before if numbers are low, so please don't leave it to a last minute booking or you stand to be disappointed.
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