Forest Bathing and Awkward Anniversarys
By Crabby McSlacker
Yep, Today Cranky Fitness is 10 years old.
Holy crap, right? It’s hard to believe. How could such a half-assed enterprise have endured an entire decade?
The quick answer is of course: it hasn’t. Not really. That’s why it’s an awkward anniversary. I’ve taken huge breaks, wandered away, reappeared, disappeared again, and generally gotten shockingly irresponsible about blogging
But hey… somehow the blog is still here!
So you may have questions: what does the blog anniversary have to do with Forest Bathing? What the hell is forest bathing? And will this post contain any gratuitous nudity?
OK, so basically, the practice of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” is just a glorified walk in the woods. But it’s a very mindful, immersive walk in the woods, and involves breathing in healthy phytoncydes that the plants emit, and reaping various physical and psychological benefits.So no, you are not literally taking a bath in the woods, and as far as I know you are not required to remove your clothing. Though to answer question (3), we could always pretend you are.
photo: pixabayGratuitous glutes! But sorry gals, I’m guessing he plays for the other team.
photo: wikimedia commonsAm I the only one thinking: Brazilians over a hundred years ago? Really?
Anyway. To answer the remaining question:
There is no connection at all between Cranky Fitness turning 10 and shirin-yoku.
But here’s the thing: I wanted to acknowledge the Big Blog Anniversary today. Yet the only thing I really felt compelled to say about it was a heartfelt THANK YOU to all the wonderful people who have read, commented, and contributed throughout the years!
Really, you guys are awesome. (And no one can convince me that a virtual community is any less real than any other kind of community. I’ve met so many wonderful folks through this weird blog. Why else would I keep coming back?) Again, thank you all so much! Have some cake!
But um, that’s not much of a blog post, is it? What else?
Thus the Forest Bathing. Because along with the whole Danish hygge obsession, it has been stalking me all over the interwebs lately, popping up where I least expect it, infiltrating various articles and newslettters and my facebook feed.
Forest bathing is newly trendy, threatening to become the next Yoga, and it’s a made-to-order Cranky Fitness Mini-Rant topic. Why? Because it’s good for you, a little offbeat, I totally approve of it…and it’s totally fucking irritating.
Why Forest Bathing is Good For You
The health benefits are not of the “vigorous hike” sort. Unless you’re pretty sedentary, it’s not much in the way of exercise. The whole point is to be slow and deliberate.
But apparently the sensory immersion itself can lower blood pressure, relieve stress, improve memory, boost mood, and even help your immune system work better.
OK, so I didn’t do much research myself. But The Washington Post review some of the research on purported shinrin-yoku health benefits and so does USA Today. Neither seem to think it’s entirely bogus.
And since both mediation and being outdoors in nature have a research-based track record of providing physiological and psychological health benefits, it ain’t exactly a big shock that a meditative walk in the woods might be a good idea.
I spend a lot of time doing various crazy-pants meditation walks and can attest to their efficacy in inducing a blissful, trippy experience… at least sometimes.
Why Forest Bathing Should Just Shut Up Now
I have no objection to the practice of walking in the woods. (Or on the seashore, or the plains, or in the park, or wherever nature may be found). Being all mindful, breathing in the scents, feeling the textures, noticing all the glorious sights and scents, appreciating the intricate natural fractal patterns nature creates for you, allowing the sun and the breeze to heat and cool your skin? That part is wonderful and no one can say too much about that.
But the part where you’re supposed to hire a specially trained forest therapy guide? Or spring for a hotel package or an expensive retreat in order to figure out how to appreciate nature?
I guess the fact that people are making money selling “the forest” as an experience that must be curated depresses me.
Even as I realize that, well, it sort of makes sense. Because with our achievement-oriented, consumerist, stressed out, obsessive culture, it’s totally possible to take a walk in the woods and miss everything that’s special about it.
I’ve spent years trying to cultivate the ability to appreciate the present moment, and even with tons of practice I suck at it. Perhaps paying someone to help you see what’s right in front of you isn’t necessarily that stupid.
But here’s a suggestion. Before you spring for an expensive Forest Bathing Retreat, try stepping out into your own backyard. Even if there are only a few scraggly weeds poking up through cracks in the asphalt, or some ants scurrying around being industrious, or a few puffy clouds drifting by, or birds trilling out the boundaries or their territories, it’s enough. There is a world out there to immerse yourself in, wherever you are, even if it’s not a spectacular, specially-certified forest trail. But it takes a certain sort of attention to really experience that world, and for many of us that doesn’t come naturally. We have to practice.
It’s the practice. Not the forest.
But forests are super nice too. I’m all for bathing in them.
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