Urban Forest Bathing: How to Find Pockets of Nature in the City

Last updated October 19, 2022

An urban take on forest bathing… coming to a city near you.

Forest bathing has recently taken the wellness world by storm. As we turn to a more conscious and caring attitude toward nature and our planet, it’s only natural that we want to spend more time outdoors and fully appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer. 

Having said that, more than 56% of the world’s population now live in urban areas.

How can we fully commit to forest bathing and find pockets of nature without having to drive miles upon miles and spend half the day on just one activity—even when we know it is beneficial for our health?

The term forest bathing or shinrin-yoku is actually a Japanese term and concept which invites one to spend time in nature, breathe deeply and calm the mind. 

Queue urban forest bathing.

Urban forest bathing is a very new take on forest bathing that allows you to bring the benefits of being in a natural environment into an urban setting. 

Since most cities have parks or green areas, urban forest bathing is something that isn’t really that difficult to do. And here’s how! 

What exactly is urban forest bathing?

Scandinavian forest bathing with an afternoon light on a late summer day

In its most simplified form, urban forest bathing is spending time consciously among trees. Now you might be thinking that jogging past a group of trees on your morning run through the neighborhood qualifies as urban forest bathing.

Not exactly. Urban forest bathing involves consciously surrounding yourself with trees, surrounded by green spaces—and spending mindful time there to benefit your well-being. 

What are the benefits of urban forest bathing?

Forest bathing and opening up opportunities for urban forest bathing has many benefits both for the environment and our well-being. 

For many people, the color green is often described as a refreshing and tranquil color. Green also has strong associations with nature and brings to mind lush grassy green spaces and forests.

Green spaces and thriving forests carry so many benefits for us and our planet. They provide a natural environment for plant and animal life to thrive, they soak up the city’s pollution, they are the best way to offset our carbon emissions and they pump out fresh oxygen for us to breathe. 

Urban forest bathing

Green spaces also boost our mental health. The past few years have seen an explosion of research finding concrete links between increased exposure to nature and improved physical and mental wellness.

Those that practice urban forest bathing can attest to its positive effects on mental well-being. It has shown to allow people to switch off and reconnect with themselves and the natural world. 

It has also been proved to help with anxiety, reduce stress and promote healing.

Ways to incorporate urban forest bathing into a city environment

Nature therapy and outdoor meditation

1. Obviously, you’ll need to find a green or forestry environment in your city or town. If you know your city well this won’t be difficult to do. You’ll probably already know the best natural, green spaces in the city. 

2. If you’re travelling or have just moved to a new urban area, this will be a little more difficult at first. But as you settle in and explore the environment, you’ll eventually discover the best green areas. Using resources like Google Maps or Google Earth can also help. Those large green spaces are pretty easy to spot on our screens. 

You might, for example, pass a forested area or park on the way home from work. Instead of rushing past, why not use some extra commuting time to do some forest bathing? Urban forest bathing is also a practice that doesn’t need to happen every day. Perhaps you can find time on the weekend to head out into nature, meditate and take notice of the natural world. 

3. Finding a forest or natural area in a city isn’t actually the hard part. What follows is finding the time to devote to relaxation and conscious time in nature. Most of us don’t have time to spend getting from our home to an area of nature and then meditating there for a while before getting on with our day. The key is, however, to find a way to incorporate this practice into our lives.

4. Once you find a green area and some time, turn off your phone to limit distractions. Breathe deeply and slow down. You’ll want to use all your senses too in order to fully get the most out of the experience. 

Reach out and touch the trees. Inhale them and smell them. Listen to the sounds of the tree branches moving in the wind. Walk around the forest or sit down and observe, it’s really up to you. 

Urban forest bathing might sound like a confusing contradiction, but it is something that can really help to enhance our health and mental well-being. 

With green initiatives growing in most urban areas around the world, spending time in nature in a large city is something that is accessible and that we can all benefit from in the years to come.

Are you planning to try it? 

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