After a pretty packed week, we started our final day of Factory Week with some forest bathing. What's that you ask? Washington Post says it is "the latest fitness trend to hit the U.S." It was actually developed back in the 80s in Japan, where it's known as Shinrin-yoku, which translates roughly to forest bathing or the medicine of the forest. The idea is that spending time immersed in nature mindfully noticing your surroundings is good for your health.
For our forest bathing experience, we all trekked to Marott Park, a lovely nature preserve that is only about a mile away from our office. If you haven't been, it's a deceiving place that looks like a small clearing for picnics and frisbee tossing. But if you look closer, there are several entrances into the woods, leading to incredible trails, hills, and Williams Creek. It's 102 acres all together, with more than 80 acres of nature preserve.
We all gathered at a picnic table and took a moment to notice how we were feeling before we began. Then went off into the woods for independent experiences.
Lydia created some notebooks we could take to walk through the woods, each with a variety of invitations for different noticing exercises. I tried two of them – walking softly like a fox and listening like deer.
These activities took me out of autopilot, slowing down my natural walking patterns. It's not uncommon to take 2-3 hours to traverse a mile. Slowing down allowed me to notice things I might have otherwise overlooked, like this:
When we got back together we checked back in on how we were feeling post-forest bathing. Everyone had different and interesting experiences, but we all agreed we felt more at ease and relaxed.
While I've spent plenty of time in nature before and noticed its effects on me, I've only intentionally "forest bathed" a few times. The slower pace and mindfulness have had a dramatic impact. Once, I did this with just 15 minutes to devote to the process, and I couldn't believe how such a short time investment on my part gave me feelings of calm and inner peace.
Jenny has a great forest bathing blog detailing some of the science behind this practice up on the SmallBox site about it if you want to learn more.