Forest bathing in South Tyrol: becoming calm in nature

For a couple of months, I am trying to make it a habit to meditate. It helps to be more mindful in your day to day life and release stress. Sometimes it’s hard though: sitting with your eyes closed trying to focus on nothing. Enter ‘forest bathing’.

Last week I was invited to an event organized by the Tourism board of South Tyrol. One of the activities they had planned was with an Italian guide. She would lead us into a local forest and give initiation in Forest Bathing.

Before I attended the event I looked up the concept. As I was not sure if I had to bring any swim gear. Turns out I didn’t!

What is forest bathing

Taking in the nature in South Tyrol
© IDM/Othmar Seehauser

The concept originates from Japan. There they call it shinrin-yoku. Shinrin means forest, and yoku means bathing. A pretty literal translation. It’s the simple act of being in nature. Not walking or hiking, just being.

Of course, it is natural to walk during your forest bath. It’s just not the goal of being there. The goal is to use all five senses. Listen to the forest, look at the forest, smell the forest, feel the forest, and even taste the forest.

How to do forest bathing

Before you go into the woods, leave everything behind. You won’t need a phone, or camera, or any other electronics. Go slowly into the woods. No clear destination, just a slow and peaceful pace.

You shouldn’t go on a two-day hike. A park or forest near you should be plenty. As you are walking slowly and will do many stops, it is good that the trail isn’t too long.

Stop walking once every few minutes. Take in the environment around you. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel? Don’t look for the things, but let them come to you naturally.

Close your eyes for a couple of minutes and listen to your own body. Watch your breath. Scan your body. And relax your muscles. Remove your shoes and walk around. Do you feel the soil beneath your feet?

The benefits of forest bathing

Forest bathing with a guide
© IDM/Othmar Seehauser

So why should you do this? Well, it’s an easier way to meditate. At least I find so. This means that you have the benefits of regular meditation when going into nature.

The benefits of meditation:

  • A clearer mind
  • More mindful in your day to day life
  • In control and in touch with your emotions
  • More relaxed

The benefits of being in nature

So the added benefits of doing a forest bath are:

  • The creation of killer cells/ NK cells
  • Higher energy
  • Better sleep patterns

Of course, all the benefits are also dependent on your daily life. Don’t expect to be a well-rested god after one session. Forest bathing helps you to get closer to all the health goals. Go out and try to do it on a regular basis. Once every (other) weekend for example.

Forest bathing and South Tyrol

feel the soil during forest bathing
© IDM/Othmar Seehauser

Great, but what does it all have to do with South Tyrol then? Well, there are four good reasons!

The first being the coniferous forests in the region. These forests are enriched with a chemical substance that has a positive influence on your health.

The second one: there are 300 days of sunshine each year in South Tyrol. The stable climate in the region helps to create great weather conditions for forest bathing. 

The third reason is the difference in forest types. You can go from 200 meters to 2000 meters above sea level in South Tyrol. This provides enough difference in the types of vegetations, and thus in the types of forests.

The last reason is because of the many footpaths in South Tyrol. They have 16.000 kilometers of signposted routes. This way you can focus on not focussing too hard, without getting lost!

A bonus reason to go forest bathing in South Tyrol are the many spas and wellness centers. Combining a stay there with a forest bathing session will have you relaxed and zen in no time!

Did you know about forest bathing already? Let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer: The event inspiring this post was organized and funded by Glenaki and IDM Südtirol-Alto Adige.

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