Forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, is a practice that originated in Japan in the 1980s. It involves immersing oneself in nature, using all five senses to fully experience and connect with the natural world. Research has shown that spending time in nature can have numerous health benefits, including reduced stress, improved mood, and increased immunity. In this article, we will explore the benefits of forest bathing for children, and discuss why it is important to encourage children to engage in this practice.
What is forest bathing?
Forest bathing is more than just a hike in the woods. It is a mindful, sensory experience that allows you to fully immerse yourself in nature and connect with the present moment. This practice involves using all five senses to fully experience and appreciate the natural environment, rather than simply passing through it.
While forest bathing can take many forms, it typically involves leisurely walking through a natural area, stopping to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the environment. It is not about exercise or achieving a specific destination, but rather about slowing down and allowing yourself to fully experience and appreciate the present moment.
Benefits of forest bathing for children:
There are numerous benefits to be gained from engaging children in forest bathing. These benefits can be physical, mental, and emotional.
Spending time in nature has been shown to have numerous physical benefits, including:
Increased cardiovascular fitness: Forest bathing can involve moderate physical activity, such as walking or climbing, which can help to improve cardiovascular fitness.
Improved immune function: Research has shown that spending time in nature can boost the body's production of natural killer cells, which help to fight off illness and infection.
Improved sleep: Exposure to natural light and the calming effects of nature have been shown to improve sleep quality and duration.
Spending time in nature can also have numerous mental benefits, including:
Reduced stress: Nature has a calming effect on the mind and can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Improved concentration and focus: Being in nature can help to reduce distractions and improve concentration and focus.
Increased creativity: Being in nature can inspire creativity and problem-solving skills.
In addition to physical and mental benefits, forest bathing can also have numerous emotional benefits for children, including:
Improved mood: Being in nature has been shown to improve mood and overall well-being.
Enhanced social connections: Forest bathing can provide opportunities for children to connect with others and build social skills.
Increased sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world: Engaging in forest bathing can help children develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of the natural world, and foster a sense of wonder and curiosity.
Why is it important to encourage children to engage in forest bathing?
It is important to encourage children to engage in forest bathing for a number of reasons. First, as mentioned above, spending time in nature has numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits for children. In today's fast-paced world, it is more important than ever for children to have the opportunity to unplug and connect with nature.
Second, engaging in forest bathing can help children develop a sense of connection and appreciation for the natural world. As children learn to appreciate and care for the environment, they may be more likely to make environmentally-conscious choices as they grow older.
Finally, encouraging children to engage in forest bathing can help to combat nature deficit disorder, a term used to describe the negative effects of not spending enough time in nature. With increased screen time and a decrease inopportunities for outdoor play, many children today are not getting enough exposure to nature. This can lead to a range of negative consequences, including decreased physical and mental health, decreased social skills, and decreased creativity and problem-solving abilities. By encouraging children to engage in forest bathing, we can help to combat nature deficit disorder and ensure that children have the opportunity to experience the many benefits of spending time in nature.
How to get started with forest bathing:
If you are interested in introducing your children to the practice of forest bathing, there are a few steps you can take to get started:
Find a natural area: Look for a local park, nature reserve, or even a green space in your area.
Set aside time: Choose a time when you can fully immerse yourself in nature, without the distractions of everyday life.
Slow down: Encourage your children to slow down and fully engage their senses as they explore the natural environment.
Make it interactive: Encourage your children to touch, smell, and listen to the natural environment. You can also try activities such as drawing or writing in a nature journal, or collecting natural objects to examine more closely.
Leave technology behind: Encourage your children to leave their phones and other technology behind during the forest bathing experience. This will allow them to fully connect with nature and the present moment.
Forest bathing is a practice that can provide numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits for children. By encouraging children to engage in this practice, we can help them to develop a deeper connection with and appreciation for the natural world, and combat nature deficit disorder. So next time you're planning an outing with your children, consider taking a leisurely walk in nature and immersing yourselves in the sights, sounds, and smells of the natural environment. Your bodies and minds will thank you for it.
Greenways is a forest school based in Hackney. Visit www.greenwaysforestschool.com for more information on how we can help your children connect with nature.