I love autumn, it is my favourite season. Warm coloured leaves fall from the trees, squirrels and birds forage in the undergrowth for fallen acorns. The light autumn rain begins to patter down through the canopy and lands, muffled, on the carpet of leaves below. The damp earthy scent of a woodland in autumn is magnified and fills the senses. Forgotten chestnuts and bright red berries shimmer as though they have been recently polished, raindrops balance from the end of the copper coloured bracken like tiny jewels.
What better way to discover Forest Bathing than during this glorious time of year. Forest bathing is a Japanese practice of relaxation. Being in the trees, observing nature and boosting your wellbeing. Plants and trees release chemicals which can help decrease blood pressure and lower stress hormones and we could all do with some of that at the moment!
I awoke to bright autumn skies and a cool breeze, perfect for a day in the woods. During my journey, the rain began to fall, but as far as I was concerned that would just add to the experience. When I arrived at the meeting point, I was greeted by Lindsey, founder of Dorset Forest Bathing and our guide for the morning.
We enjoyed a short stroll to the entrance to the woodland, where we stopped a moment to take a few breaths and be mindful of our own thoughts and feelings before proceeding. This helped us to connect and ground ourselves in order to get the most from the experience. The walk started along the main pathway but soon we were encouraged to leave the path and discover the natural feel of the woods.
We made our way to an area surrounded by grand old oak trees, twisted and covered in mosses and lichens. We were invited to sit and relax as Lindsey gave us a short intro talk about the origins of forest bathing and what we could expect during our 2 ½ hour session. We then took some time to find our own space and listen to the sounds around us. I could hear the birds in the trees, the light fall of rain on the leaves, the breeze drifting through the treetops. I began to feel my body relaxing and I hadn’t even realised I had been feeling that tense!
We moved onto a more secluded area, taking in the colours, sights and sounds of everything around us. The next part would be a challenge for me – taking a lie down in the woods! I don’t recall ever having had a lie down in the woods before, certainly not as an adult anyway. It took me a while to get relaxed, I started by sitting and just taking deep breaths and listening. Once I stretched out though, the view of the canopy was awe inspiring.
I could see the sun coming through the branches, the different greens of the leaves yet to turn and the falling, spiralling, gold toned ones that came to rest peacefully on and around me. A squirrel was hunting for acorns and beech nuts nearby and the rustling seemed so loud but also very comforting.
I can honestly say that my Introduction to Forest Bathing was a very relaxing experience and I would recommend it to anyone who needs some time out from their busy lives, or would just like to appreciate the beauty of the area around them. Being able to reconnect with nature and taking some ‘me’ time is essential when trying to balance out what is happening in the world, especially in these unprecedented times.
If this has inspired you to take your first step into discovering Forest Bathing, then please visit the Dorset Forest Bathing Facebook page here.