Have you ever been on a hike or out in nature and just stopped to take everything in? Maybe closed your eyes, or listened closely to nothing but the sounds of the wilderness? Have you noticed how your breathing calms, and your mind relaxes? Tension seems to disappear.
Congratulations. You’ve been forest bathing.
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing comes from a Japanese word that also means “absorbing the forest atmosphere.” It’s the idea of immersing yourself in nature, and the soothing calm you feel during and after your time results in some very real health benefits.
Forest bathing doesn’t have to be a three-day trek into the wilderness, however (although you can certainly do that if you’d like!) Non-hikers and city dwellers can enjoy forest bathing wherever they are. In fact, there’s a reason cities save space for parks and green areas for people to enjoy. It leads to better overall health and better mental health. Citizens are happier all around.
If you’re in the middle of a city, and a trip to a national park is out of your range right now, that’s okay! Look for a city park, or a community garden. An area beside a stream or beach will work. Basically, you just need a spot with a little bit of nature. Wander without an agenda, or find a spot to sit and take in the view, the sounds, and the smells of your nature spot.
If you’re a person who meditates or journals, forest bathing goes hand-in-hand with those activities. Allow a few minutes for contemplation or journaling. See if you can find something unique you’ve never noticed before – the petals of a flower, or the call of a bird you’ve never heard. You could even use this time to make a list of things you’re thankful for, or things which inspire awe in you.
You do want to take a few precautions before forest bathing. Make sure you have sunscreen on while you’re outside. A hat is even better. You may want a bottle of water. Also, you’ll want to be aware of your surroundings. If you’re in an urban area, pick a spot where you feel safe. If you’re in a more natural setting, be aware of wild animals and other hazards. Check where you’ll be sitting and make sure it’s free from burrs, prickers, and plants like nettles or poison oak or ivy (I once spread a beach towel over a lovely, green bed of poison ivy on a trip to the lake!).
If you can, plan on spending at least twenty minutes enjoying nature and forest bathing. However, don’t let this time suggestion stop you! You’ll still feel much better after just a few minutes in nature, and if that’s all you’ve got – use it.
Forest Bathing for Mental Health
Anyone who’s spent time in nature can tell you it feels good. But there are both mental and physical health benefits to the practice as well. Spending time in a forest can improve a person’s sense of well-being and reduce stress. People also report being happier after spending time in the forest.
Forest Bathing Health Benefits
It’s no surprise that improved mental health goes hand-in-hand with improved physical health, too! Lowering stress also lowers harmful hormones like cortisone. One study on forest bathing showed that spending time in the forest helped people who were having trouble sleeping to get some rest at night.
Studies have also shown that people’s blood pressure and heart rate can go down after a nature session.
Using an RV to Find Forest Bathing Spots
If you’re thinking, “This all sounds great, but where do I find forest bathing near me?” don’t despair! There are lots of spots to forest bathe. Renting an RV can help you to be even more immersed in the forest and the natural world.
Camping on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land is often free and is a great way to camp in forests and other beautiful, natural areas. RVshare also has a list here of great, secluded places to camp where you’ll be immersed in nature.
Most national parks also have beautiful campgrounds available, and lots of them have forests perfect for some forest bathing. Many state parks also have great options for camping and surrounding yourself with trees. In fact, RVshare rounded up the best campgrounds in every state so you can look them over and determine which are best suited to forest bathing and solitary walks among the trees.
As for which type of RV is best suited for forest bathing, well, that’s up to you! A tiny teardrop or pop-up trailer or a campervan will get you to more places off the beaten path. Because they’re lightweight and don’t take up much room, you can better manage winding roads and possibly even dirt passes to get you farther out in the wilderness.
However, if you prefer more amenities on a camping trip, don’t let that discourage you! There are excellent campgrounds for Class C campers, and even for Class A motorhomes. You can park and set up a luxurious camp. Spend a day going for a walk in the woods, and then return to a beautifully appointed RV with a warm shower and all the conveniences you need. There is not one right way to camp, and there’s not one right way to forest bathe!
So, if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, take to the forest! Forest bathing can’t solve all your problems, of course. But it can help you de-stress, breathe deeply, and reset before you head back to your hectic life.