John Muir once wrote that ‘the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness’. It’s a fact that many – including scientists – have found to be true.
Many cultures have recognised our link to the natural world and the impact it has on our mind, body and soul for hundreds of years. But in our busy, urban lives, it’s a link that’s easy to lose sight of.
With today’s digitally-centred society leaving our minds drained, it’s never been more important to rediscover our connection to the natural world and the healing power of nature.
The natural environment is a healing tool. Scientific research shows that there’s an undeniable link between spending time in nature and increased mental wellbeing.
An oasis within the landscape of our hectic lives, nature gives us a break from the constant noise of the modern world. In nature, we can rest, feel a sense of belonging and reconnect with the innate part of ourselves that is so connected to the earth.
It takes us away from our emails, social media, TV, work – everything that claims so much of our intense attention. Instead, nature demands little of us and our attention is captured easily in a more broad, peaceful and inquisitive way.
We don’t need to turn our backs on society and make our home in the wild to reap the benefits nature so generously provides. A study by the University of Exeter found that those who spent just two hours a week in nature were more likely to feel healthy and a sense of well-being compared to those who don’t. So how exactly can we embrace nature as a healing tool?
Despite what the name might have you picturing, forest bathing doesn’t require you to soak in a tub full of pine needles, nor to take a dip in a stream that runs through some woodland.
Originating from Japan, the practice is called “shinrin-yoku”, which translates to “forest bathing” or, more aptly, “taking in the forest atmosphere”. It’s about surrounding yourself with nature, taking it in, and reconnecting.
It sounds simple – and it is. But there’s more to it than just strolling through a wooded area. Instead, the concept calls you to go deeper and to move about the forest more mindfully.
Spend some time among the trees and it doesn’t take long to truly understand.
Notice the sunlight, dappled by the canopy above, casting its glow over the forest floor. Breath in deep, inhaling the sweet smell of damp moss. Hear the forest melody; a heady mix of bird song, insects, rustling leaves and small twigs that snap underfoot.
The benefits of forest bathing, both to our mental well-being and to our physical health, have been proven time and time again.
Taking in the sounds, sights and smell of the forest increase mindfulness. As our eyes trace the leaves, the trees, the creatures, it sparks childlike curiosity and inquisitiveness within us. The natural fragrance of some trees releases phytoncides, compounds that calm our fight or flight response. Our breathing slows down, the chatter in our minds quietens and we feel calm and grounded. We feel awe, we experience more gratitude, we feel happier.
But it goes further still: it increases our physical health too.
The same phytoncides that calm our fight or flight response also promote our natural killer cells, which support our immune system and help us fight cancer. And since we feel calmer, our blood pressure levels drop too.
At Soul’s Escapes, we stand by the power of forest bathing and we crafted a variety of retreats that take travellers into the depths of nature to help them reap its many benefits. Our new “Forest Bathing & Cambodian Temples” retreat has been exclusively created to offer a private wellbeing experience in nature. Travel to enchanting Cambodia and enjoy the truly transformative experience of forest bathing. Rewire your mind with meditation in the Cambodian jungle, move your body through yoga flows by secluded jungle temples, and rebalance your chakras through energy healing, all while exploring a fascinating land of simple beauty and impressive history.
With our expert guidance, you will welcome in all the healing tools Mother Nature provides and discover how transformative she can be.