Trying Forest Bathing and Mindfulness as a Family

Trying Forest Bathing and Mindfulness as a Family

Trying Forest Bathing and Mindfulness as a Family

Finding Serenity in the Highlands

I’ll never forget that sunny spring day when my family and I decided to try something new – forest bathing. As we made our way through the lush, verdant forests of the Scottish Highlands, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement and curiosity. The idea of “soaking in” our natural surroundings, rather than simply hiking from point A to B, was a novel concept to us.

Forest bathing, or “shinrin-yoku” as it’s known in Japan, is a mindfulness practice that encourages participants to slowly and deliberately engage with nature. Unlike traditional hiking, which focuses on reaching a destination, or nature walks, which center on identifying flora and fauna, forest bathing is all about being present in the moment and using our senses to fully immerse ourselves in the wilderness.

As our guide, Isla, led us deeper into the towering pine trees and blooming heather, she reminded us to slow our pace and pay attention to the smallest details. “Notice the texture of the bark beneath your fingertips,” she said, “and listen to the symphony of birdsong all around you.” Suddenly, the world seemed to slow down, and I found myself hyper-aware of every sight, sound, and sensation.

Connecting with Nature, Connecting with Ourselves

One of the key principles of forest bathing is the idea of “sensory threshold exercises” – pausing whenever you notice a shift in your awareness or environment. As we meandered through the forest, I found myself stopping frequently, captivated by the play of light and shadow on the mossy undergrowth or the gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze.

Georgie Dreher, a nature connection practitioner we met on our trip, explained that these moments of pause are crucial for allowing our minds to fully engage with our surroundings. “Instead of having a purpose, like a place to be, the purpose is to just be,” she said, encouraging us to let go of our usual hiking agendas and simply drink in the forest.

As I slowed down and observed the world around me, I noticed my own awareness shifting. The constant mental chatter that usually accompanies my outdoor excursions seemed to fade, and I found myself fully present in the moment. My children, too, were visibly calmer and more engaged, their eyes wide with wonder as they explored the forest’s hidden treasures.

The Benefits of Forest Bathing

The more we immersed ourselves in the practice of forest bathing, the more I began to understand its profound benefits. Research has shown that this nature-based mindfulness practice can have a range of physical and mental health benefits, from better sleep to reduced stress levels.

“Forest bathing essentially combines the benefits of meditation with the benefits of being outside in nature,” explained Ruth Nazarian, a certified forest therapy guide. “Studies have shown that it can boost memory and focus, promote empathy, and improve attention and behavior in school settings.”

As I watched my children’s faces light up with joy and fascination, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude. Not only were we creating lasting memories as a family, but we were also nurturing a deeper connection to the natural world – something that is so crucial for our well-being and the health of our planet.

A Newfound Appreciation

By the time we emerged from the forest, several hours later, I felt a profound sense of calm and clarity. The constant demands of everyday life had melted away, and I found myself appreciating the simple beauty of our surroundings in a way I never had before.

“There is something about being in the natural world that improves cognitive development and physical and mental health,” said Richard Louv, the co-founder of the Children and Nature Network and author of several books on the subject. “Time in nature can help children learn to build confidence, teach them to calm themselves, improve focus, decrease symptoms of ADD, improve creativity, and reduce stress.”

As we made our way back to our campsite, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity to experience forest bathing with my family. It was a reminder that sometimes, the most profound and meaningful moments can be found not in the pursuit of grand adventures, but in the simple act of slowing down and reconnecting with the natural world around us.

So, if you’re looking for a way to destress, boost your family’s well-being, and create lasting memories, I highly recommend giving forest bathing a try. Who knows – it just might change the way you experience the great outdoors forever.

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