Woodland Wellbeing Walks

The benefits of spending time in nature on human health and mental wellbeing have long been recognised. Being amongst trees has been scientifically proven to boost your mental and physical health, and connecting with nature supports a healthy mind.

The physiological and psychological exercise known as shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”) emerged in Japan in the 1980s. This aimed to combat the burnout experienced by many following the tech boom in the country and to help people reconnect with and protect the forests. It was embraced by the Japanese as a form of ecotherapy that’s popularity has grown worldwide.

Although many cultures have long celebrated the importance of human connection to nature, research on the benefits of time spent in nature provides scientific support[1] to the claim that it is good for us. Studies have shown that even short-term exposure to the forest can enhance positive emotions, lower blood pressure and heart rate and reduce stress hormones. Research has also shown a walk in the woods reduces blood sugar levels among diabetics and improves immunity.

Forest bathing can be a great activity for adults and children alike, though it is always advised that children practice under adult supervision. Particularly as brambles and stinging nettles are in a lot of UK forests. Forestry England has created a downloadable forest bathing guide to introduce children to the practice. It can be a useful tool to teach concentration, and mindfulness, in addition to offering an opportunity to learn from each other.

Tips to get started

  • Turn off or put your phone on silent, if you’re able to, this will allow you to tap into what is happening around you
  • Move slowly through the forest, so you’re able to take everything in
  • Breathe deeply, this will aid your body to relax
  • Notice the sounds, scents, and sights around you
  • Put off thinking about what you need to do next and be present
Forestry England Wellbeing Trails

Forestry England has some wellbeing trails available in their forests across Britain. These trails have been specifically designed for you to be able to take a mindful walk through the forest and truly relax.

You will find themed panels along the routes that invite you to pause, notice and connect with the forest environment around you. They also have a forest wellbeing journal available to help you get even more benefit from the experience, offering additional mindful things to do while you’re out in the forest and at home.

[1] Jimenez, M. P., DeVille, N. V., Elliott, E. G., Schiff, J. E., Wilt, G. E., Hart, J. E., & James, P. (2021). Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(9). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094790

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