Forest Bathing – Experiencing the Outdoors in a New Way

Summer Adventure is the time to celebrate all the ways we enjoy and engage with nature! Have you heard of forest bathing? Read along with Sheryl’s personal account of exploring the practice and then give it a try yourself! Check out our follow-up post 'Forest Bathing in Alameda County', with guided mindful exercises and tips for local green spaces in the East Bay. 

Experiencing the Outdoors in a New Way 

Guest blog by Sheryl Springer 

For my first experience in forest bathing, I took an early Sunday morning walk into the Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve which is part of the East Bay Regional Park District in Berkeley California. As I walked up the staircase to the trails from where I parked my car, I was thinking about what forest bathing might mean to me. I had not yet had a chance to read about it, and I only knew it would be a quiet time, I would breathe deeply, and I would let the experience come to me.

Just what is forest bathing or shinrin-yoku? The term was first coined in 1982 by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Shinrin-yoku translates to “forest bathing” or “absorbing the forest atmosphere.” The practice encourages people to simply spend time in nature — no actual bathing required. The goal of forest bathing is to live in the present moment while immersing your senses in the sights and sounds of a natural setting.  (Source: Kaiser Permanente)

I stepped into a grove of eucalyptus trees, a place I’d been before while listening to my library audio book. Today the technology was turned off, and I knew I was already encountering forest bathing. I quickly realized there was earth beneath my feet, not the hard concrete or blacktop I’m accustomed to. 

I started thinking about how I was touching our earth with each step I took. My senses were beginning to heighten, I could smell the trees, hear the sounds of the leaves blowing as the wind moved through them and the crunch of the leaves as I walked upon those which had fallen to the ground. As I looked up to the top of the tall trees, I saw the branches swaying freely and nothing was holding them back.

Suddenly, I heard an owl hooting (three hoots in a row so it was most likely a great horned owl) in the distance and then from behind me came the return hoots from another owl.  I was surprised since I only thought owls hooted at night and it was already 9 a.m. I listened closely with a big smile on my face as they communicated back and forth. I started walking and just as I turned a corner the sounds were gone, but the feeling I had stayed with me. I definitely had a connection with nature.

I didn’t have to go far to be relaxed that morning, I only needed nature. I’m confident that some stress had left my body, and as I walked back to car, I started visualizing where my next forest bathing walk would be.  I invite you to give it a try. You only need your senses and some calming thoughts to guide you.

For more information about forest bathing, AC Library has several books: 

Forest Bathing

The Secret Therapy of Trees

Forest Bathing Retreat

Last Call for Summer Adventure 2022! 

Pick up your Adventure Guide at any AC Library location, the Mobile Library, or download a copy at the Summer Adventure website! Every week we have book lists and programs related to our theme, Wonder in Nature, and see how others have celebrated the summer in the Submission Showcase! There is still time to complete activities, reading, and more. Submit your activities by August 15 to receive a book gift and prize drawing entries! 

We would love your feedback about Summer Adventure. What did you like about it? What can we improve for next year? Complete this short survey by August 26th for entry to a BONUS feedback prize drawing! English, Español, 繁体中文  (Traditional), 简体中文 (Simplified).