Aging Well Partners
- Aug 03
- 3 min
Weekend Coastal Forest Bathing
I test drove this growing pastime of Forest Bathing over the weekend, when we decided to jump in the car and head up the California 1 to the Central Coast. Our destination…Big Sur and the Redwoods. California is home to 77 redwood groves. Not a bad spot to give this 40+ year practice a go.
WHAT’S FOREST BATHING?
Forest Bathing (or “taking in the forest atmosphere”) is the therapeutic Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or the art and science of how trees can promote health and happiness and was established to offer an eco-antidote to tech burnout. The first time I read about this growing pastime, I was intrigued.
Dr. Qing Li, the world’s foremost expert in forest medicine, evangelizes how forest bathing can reduce your stress levels and blood pressure, strengthen your immune and cardiovascular systems, boost your energy, mood, creativity, and concentration, and even help you lose weight and live longer.
The photography hobbyist in me, already had the proclivity to frequently snap pictures of nature, especially trees. I had become obsessed with photographing the amazing 40-foot liquidambar tree rooted in my front yard. It’s one of the few trees in coastal Carlsbad whose leaves change, so I get many opportunities to capture beautiful colors throughout the year. On reflection it occurred to me how much calm, serenity, and creativity this tree had sparked for me over the years. Dr Li is on to something.
Driving the Central Coast in California is quite dramatic and breath taking but standing in a forest of redwoods is a whole different experience; and I saw that it affected every single person in our group. There was a quiet that engulfed us. I heard the small intake of breaths, eyes rounded, and we were amazed by the color of the trees and mammoth height. The chirping birds and buzzing insects were a soothing orchestra of sound. The myriad of blue dragonflies hovering on each leaf, a quiet waterfall we happened upon, the shocking destruction of trees from recent fires in the forest; yet the remarkable rebirth of new trees from those same fires left us in awe. Nature has figured out how to survive. The forest provides us humans an opportunity to be a part of this natural healing process as well.
Interestingly, we had no cell phone coverage while in the forest, and while there was a bit of distress (teens) at first, by hour three we had ourselves some relaxed teens, laughing adults, thoughtful conversation, renewed energy, and a serene feeling that was exceptional. Hard to explain. Just go try it.
SOME TIPS FOR YOUR FRIST FOREST BATH:
- Take your time and look around as you wander along the forest path.
- Engage your senses and observe your surroundings. Stop occasionally, and sit, look up, or even better…lie down on the forest floor to get the money-view of hundred-foot trees. I did.
- Breathe deeply, often and with purpose and clear your mind.
- Turn off your devices (if you have service) for the best opportunity of being mindful, relaxed, and to enjoy the magnificence of nature all around you.
- Block off a day and don’t have an agenda on how you’ll experience your Forest Bath. Just let it happen. See where the adventure takes you. After several hours in the forest, ours ended at a lodge surrounded by trees and a beautiful stream; enjoying some ice cream and a great local IPA. Who knew!
Desperate to get back to the forest but short on time, but very much in need of a dose of well-being? Research has shown that viewing an image of a forest scene on a screen causes changes in the body and brain that make us feel more relaxed. Take a 10–20-minute virtual trip to the forest by streaming some peaceful forest sounds, accompanied by a virtual forest gallery (so many to choose from). Even better, create your own forest slideshow from your last jaunt to the forest. I just made mine! Here’s to living and aging well!
Jacqui Clark is a Certified Senior Advisor™ (CSA™), consultant with Living Coastal Senior Resources, and co-founder of Aging Well Partners. She is an industry leading living-and-aging well expert, and a respected communications specialist. She’s lived in San Diego for 35 years, much of that in Carlsbad where she and her husband live with their two daughters. Find Jacqui at www.agingwellpartners.com