For decades, Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” has been recognized in Japan as a simple, meditative practice that can yield profound physical and psychological benefits.
The concept is simple—you just find a wooded environment in which to immerse yourself, relaxing, slowing down, breathing, and observing.
In fact, you do not really have to “do” anything at all except be in the moment, and let the wonder of nature wash over you.
If you have never tried forest bathing before, you might be wondering how you get started. In this post, we will go over the best practices on how to forest bathe, answer common questions for beginners, and the best places to find some quiet time in the forest.
Should You Use a Guide?
If you are just starting out, you may want to go forest bathing with an expert guide, with or without a group. This is a good option to get a better understanding of the full experience and learn some of the more subtle nuances of the practice.
A guide can draw your attention to different sights, sounds, and smells in your environment, and can ask you to share your thoughts and feelings. Some guides may also incorporate other meditative or artistic practices.
Other people achieve full immersion better if they have a solo experience with no distractions or expectations. In this event, you may want to read one of the many books on forest bathing, so you can benefit from the insight of experienced forest bathers.
There is no right or wrong answer here—just go with your instinct, and remember, you can always try something different next time.
10 Tips for New Forest Bathers
1. Do not bring your devices, or stow them away.
Forest bathing is as much about disconnecting from the hectic world outside of nature as it is about connecting with nature. So, either do not bring your phone or turn it off and put it in your pocket or pack for the duration.
Some people say to do this with your camera as well, but I think it depends on why you are taking pictures and your overall approach. If it can be a mindful practice for you, it should be fully compatible with forest bathing.
2. Remember, this is not about achieving fitness goals.
You are probably used to hiking in the forest, setting a fast pace to cross large distances and get fit.
With forest bathing, you are going to want to walk slowly, or even just stay in one place. You are not here to exercise.
3. Sit, walk, or stand as feels comfortable.
It is completely up to you whether you want to walk around slowly, take a seat, stand in one place, or even lie down. A combination of these is also fine.
4. Focus on the details.
When you are hiking, you usually miss a lot of the details around you because you are moving fast, and a lot of your attention is on your body.
Now is the time to pay attention to all of the little details surrounding you. Look at the way the leaves toss in the breeze or examine the texture of moss on a tree trunk.
5. Pay attention to all of your senses.
Incorporate every sense in your experience. Along with sights, pay attention to the sounds of the forest, the breeze on your skin, and the aromas of trees, leaves, dirt, and flowers.
6. Try not to set a strict time limit.
It is easiest to achieve full immersion if you are not worried about what you are going to be doing next. If possible, try not to give yourself a strict time for leaving the forest. If you have to, give yourself as much time as possible.
7. Identify a sit spot if you are forest bathing locally.
A “sit spot” in forest bathing is just what it sounds like—a comfortable spot where you can sit and enjoy nature.
It can be especially helpful to locate such a spot if you are forest bathing in a location close to where you live. Then you will have somewhere you can return time and again.
8. Incorporate other forms of meditation, ritual, art, and journaling if you want.
While forest bathing, you can just observe the world around you and enjoy it. But if you prefer, you can always incorporate other activities of your choice.
Some people find it easier to focus on their surroundings when they are interacting in some way, which is why art and journaling may be helpful. You can even talk to plants or other objects around you.
If you wish to exercise, I recommend keeping it as light as possible. Anything too intensive will pull your awareness back into your body and away from your surroundings.
9. Think, or don’t think, about whatever you want.
It is totally up to you whether you want to try and clear your mind while you are in the forest or focus your thoughts on something. Either can be helpful in different ways.
10. There is really no “wrong” way to do this. Just be in nature.
The most important thing is just to realize that there is not a single “correct” way to forest bathe. Just do what works for you, and try new things if you want. You should be able to figure out pretty easily whether your practice is benefiting you.
Where to Go Forest Bathing
Now that you have some tips for how to forest bathe, let’s talk about where you can do it.
Visit A National Forest
Depending on where you live, there may be significant national forest acreage nearby. If so, chances are good that there are also numerous secluded trails you can explore.
National and state parks also can be suitable for forest bathing, but sometimes, they can get to be a bit crowded. So, they may be best at the start or end of a season. The National Park Service has a website where you can find a national park by state.
Forest Bathing Retreats
There are forest bath retreats you can go on that take you completely out of the ordinary for a few days or longer. You can stay in a remote location with easy access to the woods, enjoying the forest itself as well as tranquil accommodations and restorative activities.
Join A Guided Tour
Check to see whether there are any guided forest tours available either in your local area or at a vacation destination. If you take a guided tour, that removes a lot of the hard work of deciding exactly where to go since your guide will take care of it.
Spend The Weekend Away in a Tree House
Another fun idea for a forest bath would be to book a retreat at a treehouse. Treehouses have become extremely popular over recent years, and you will probably find plenty of options even in your local area if you check online.
Explore Your Own Backyard (Or Close By)
Last but not least, if you are very lucky, you might already live close to some local woodlands.
If that is the case, you can probably get out there and take forest baths on a regular basis.
You do not necessarily need to take a walk deep into the wilds to enjoy a good experience.
In fact, even if you just walk a couple of minutes up a trail from the road, that might be all you need to do to enjoy the full relaxing benefits of a forest bath.
Regular Forest Bathing Can Invigorate Your Senses and Restore Your Spirit
Now you know how to forest bathe, and where to do it! So, consider booking a tour or retreat, or just taking a walk in the forest near your home. Getting out in nature can help you hit a mental “reset” button, reduce stress, and support your total well-being.