Updated: Sep 25
When it comes to quintessentially British countryside, look no further than Sussex! Here, you’ll find those pleasant rolling hills of yore, stunning bright green scenery, beautiful gardens, ancient woodland, incredible coastlines… the list goes on and on.
As such, it’s certainly no surprise that people absolutely love coming to this part of the world, spending time in nature is something that we all need, particularly in the 21st century.
As amazing as it is to exist in the digital age and the modern world, the pressures of this can take its toll so it’s essential that we unplug as often as we can… and this is where forest bathing can really come into its own.
Also known as shinrin yoku, forest bathing is actually a Japanese pursuit that’s espoused for being particularly good for our mental and physical health and wellbeing. Practitioners find that it can help reduce their feelings of stress, make them happier and even make them more creative.
My Sussex home, where I run rural retreats, is surrounded by trees and nestled next to ancient woodland. With large glass windows in every room, you can see trees from every angle. Numerous studies also show that simply sitting looking at trees can reduce blood pressure, as well as the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
Other potential benefits of being around trees and nature include reducing your heart rate and blood pressure, helping improve recovery times post-illness and helping to support your immune system - so it could certainly be worth investigating if you are feeling as though you need a bit of a pick me.
But how do you go about forest bathing? What does it involve?
The good news is that the art of forest bathing is easily accessible to one and all. You just need to find a nice green spot with some trees!
Once you’re firmly ensconced in your chosen woodland, turn off all your devices so you can switch off and relax in a mindful way, then start to move through the trees slowly, so you can see and feel more of the local environment.
Take long deep breaths into your abdomen as you walk along and breathe out slowly to help your body relax. You could even try sitting down for a while to notice the sights, smells and sounds of the forest.
I like to take a notebook out with me when I go into the woods at the bottom of my garden. I walk slowly, through the trees, using my senses to really appreciate all that surrounds me.
Then I find a place to stop and sit or just be and take out my journal to free write. This is a method of writing down whatever comes into your head, keeping your pen moving and the thoughts flowing. It’s through this process in nature that my poetry emerges. I find being among the trees really frees up my creativity.
So find yourself a copse, wood, forest or even a tree in your garden or local park to spend some time in the company of these majestic beings. You never know how they might help you heal, or what they may whisper in your ear!