Trail talk: ‘Forest bathing’ is path to peace

Maroon Bells lake in fall foliage after snow storm in Colorado. Photo Credit: kanonsky (iStock).

Shinrin-yoku. No, I didn’t just sneeze, although I admit there is a heightened awareness of coughing and sneezing right now and with good reason.

The air of uncertainty, and the stress it can induce, is why I want to write about shinrin-yoku. As you might guess, the term originated in Japan.

In the 1980s this label was attached to a physiological and psychological exercise. It translates to “forest bathing” — simply absorbing and appreciating the atmosphere of a forest.

As noted in a National Geographic web article, you don’t have to immerse yourself in some far-off wilderness. Just walking in any natural environment and making an effort to connect with your surroundings is beneficial.

Some of us may be lucky enough to live in an area where we can simply step out our back door to enjoy some quietude, serenity and clean, crisp, fresh air.

Maybe you live within walking distance of a park or trailhead.

Think trailheads for clearing your head. A little mental floss to momentarily flick those little nagging, negative thoughts out of the crevices in our brain.

As Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently noted, a steady diet of round-the-clock news consumption can bring on a kind of mental indigestion and bring down even the most optimistic person.

Stay abreast of the latest news, learn what you need to know, but then get outside and take some deep breaths as you walk, jog or bike. It will remind you that the world is still turning on its axis, that birds still sing, squirrels scamper and dogs bark after them.

The Japanese had two goals for shinrin-yoku: to relieve workday stress and reconnect people with their natural resources, to inspire an appreciative and protective culture.

I am grateful that those in charge are taking protective measures with vulnerable members of our community in mind.

I’m also appreciative that our parks, trails and open spaces remain open to the public.

Forest bathing will not wash away all of our cares — we will likely need regular applications — but it will refresh us.

Davis is executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition.


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