I can imagine after you’ve read this article, you might check Facebook or Twitter? Today is World Mental Health Day, a day that raises awareness for Mental Health across the world.  It has been scientifically proven that walking in the woods has been shown to boost mental health.

Maybe you’ll share this article with your friends? Maybe they’ll share something funny and it’ll appear on your timeline.  Or maybe after you’ve read this article, you’ll go back to doing the accounts or something else that has you looking at a screen.  I feel confident that after you’ve finished reading this, you’ll want to go for a walk in the woods.

But here is the caveat. Don’t take the dog. Don’t take your phone and don’t take a camera.  Take some time to find a quiet forest and spend a few hours sitting and breathing, experiencing your surroundings with all five senses.  I can also feel confident you’ll feel much better for it, even moreso if you make it a regular thing.  If you do, you’ll be feeling the full effects of Forest Bathing or, to give it it’s proper name, shinrin-yoku.

The benefits were scientifically proven in the 1980’s by Dr Qing Li in Japan.  After scientific research proved the benefits of this activity, the Japanese government introduced it into their national health programme. But the benefits of walking through the woods had been well known long before this in Japanese culture, this was the first time it had been scientifically proven.

The benefits include lower stress, reduction in blood pressure, more energy, a better immune system, weight loss, improved cardiovascular and metabolic health and lower blood sugar to name but a few.  But for me, the lower stress levels and invigoration that being around nature, especially trees, is something that resonates particularly.

The Woodland Trust has suggested that “Forest Bathing should be among a range of non-medical therapies and activities recommended by GPs to boost patients wellbeing” and it is growing in popularity in the UK.  There is now a UK Forest Bathing Institute who run sessions and advocate the practice as a genuinely beneficial form of therapy for the body and the mind.

Just two hours in the forest, even once a month can give notable beneficial changes although a walk in an urban part might mean a visit every day to get the same effect.

And it’s not just a walk that will make a difference.  A slow walk with no urgency or immediate need to be somewhere else, also remembering to use all five senses to experience your surroundings.

Maybe find a nice spot and sit for a while, fully immersing yourself in the sounds and the feelings that come and go.  You don’t even have to meditate in the strict sense, but just sitting or walking slowly will suffice.

For more information about Forest Bathing, visit the website for the Forest Bathing Institute or have a look at some of the links:-

Reporter Kristen Dirksen meets Dr Qing Li who pioneered the research.

Harriet Sherwood: Getting back to nature: how forest bathing can make us feel better

The National Trust’s guide to Forest Bathing