Updated: Oct 20, 2021
This weekend a friend’s text reminded me that you don’t need a guide, a lot of time, or even an actual forest to practice the idea of “forest bathing.” She wrote:
“Sitting in a patch of sun in my garden, I hear bees, rooster, distant traffic, bird chirp, bird wings flying above my head, shuffling in the shrubs, dogs barking, kids shouting, small airplane, a fly, hummingbird chirrup, squirrel feet sneaking along the deck behind me, engine start, crows. Why do crows caw and roosters crow?”
Just reading her text made me feel I was immersed in a little sound bath too. I’m pretty sure I got a shot of dopamine (though I can’t prove it).
Most of us already know how good nature is for us physically and mentally. We've experienced how it makes us more positive, energetic or calm. But, just like drinking water or cutting down on sugar, KNOWING doesn’t mean we’re DOING - even though it’s the “doing” part that changes life for the better.
So, I thought I’d share three super easy ways I add nature to my daily routine when I'm at home. Each one takes less than four minutes. For real. Depending on what you've got on hand, they should be equally quick for you. And hopefully at least one resonates with you.
1 | Spaciousness - One minute, one object
We’re surrounded by incredibly useful man-made objects all day, from coffee mugs to computers. Right now though, go find something in your home that is nature-made and has an aroma. Your kitchen, backyard, or balcony are all great places to look.
Got your object? OK, set your timer for 60 seconds, close your eyes, and immerse yourself in the fragrance of this object. Breathe in and savor the aroma until the timer beeps.
What did you experience when you focused on the object and tuned in with your sense of smell? Did any memories come up? How does your breathing feel now?
Whenever I do this exercise, I’m reminded of phytoncides, the natural oils a tree releases to protect itself from bacteria, insects and fungi. Different trees emit different phytoncides. Researchers have shown that exposure to phytoncides can lower a person’s stress hormone and blood pressure levels. Breathing the fragrance of your chosen object probably won’t give you the same health benefits, but it may steady your breathing and ground you in the present moment, where you can make your next conscious, creative decision.
2 | Groundedness - A rock and some oil
I like using this exercise as a break from tedious desk work like updating spreadsheets or paying bills.
If you’re like me and can’t resist picking up a rock or three on your hikes or neighborhood strolls, you’ll have a rock on hand. Go grab it. If not, hopefully you can find one to borrow on your next trip outside. Optionally, if you have essential oil on hand (lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus or pine, for example), grab that too.
Put the rock in the palm of your hand. Wrap your fingers around it. With your eyes closed, hold it and feel its shape and texture for two minutes. (I always set a timer so I stay with it for the full two minutes.)
When two minutes have passed, ask yourself:
What temperature was the rock? How did it feel in your hand? What, if any, words or thoughts came to mind as you held it? What do you notice about your breathing or any sensations in your body as you held the rock? For fun, try breathing the way you think this particular rock might breathe.
If you have essential oil, put a drop or two on the rock, breathe in the scent, and place it on your desk as you continue working. Repeat as needed.
By the way, Herbal Wellness sells one of my favorite essential oil samples called “Sacred Trees.” I highly recommend it. (No, I don’t get a commission for saying this.)
3 | Calmness - Trees Whispering or Misty Morning Birdsong
What’s your favorite sound in nature? One of mine is the sound of wind through trees. (Did you know there's a word for this sound? It’s called psithurism and comes from a root word that means “whispering.”) Thanks to technology, I can surround myself with this soothing sound even when trees are nowhere near me.
This video provides over an hour of “wind through the trees.” Sit and breathe comfortably, close your eyes, and soak in the sound for a few minutes. My body noticeably relaxes when I listen.
If birds singing on a misty morning is more your thing, try this video. Many beautiful recordings can transport you to nature - just search and click for a mini virtual nature break.
Don’t let your schedule or access to a forest stop you from "forest bathing." Use one of the simple ideas above to get started. And share your own favorite ways to add nature into your daily routine using the comments below.