On this week’s RV Family Travel Atlas podcast Jeremy and Stephanie are going Forest Bathing, and sharing expert tips from author and nature and forest therapy guide Melanie Choukas-Bradley about how to engage in this meditative practice.
Forest Bathing? Say wha? Its a real thing people. And Stephanie and Jeremy are big believers in its benefits for your mind, body, and soul. Last summer, when a friend tipped us off to a new book called “The Joy of Forest Bathing: Reconnect with Wild Places & Rejuvenate Your Life” by Melanie Choukas-Bradley, we knew that we had to get a copy. When it arrived it felt like a handcrafted gift from a dear friend. The book’s cover, and interior illustrations (by Lieke van der Vorst) are absolutely charming and delightful, and they entice you to make a pot of tea, pull on a warm blanket, and dive into its pages. More importantly, the books lovely and delicate prose will inspire you to go on your own forest bathing walk.
What is Forest Bathing?
So what exactly is forest bathing? And how is it different from going on a walk or taking a hike? On this week’s podcast Melanie breaks it all down for us. The first step may be the most important one. You just need to relax and slow down. Melanie recommends taking about three hours to take a one mile walk. This will allow you to relax and become present in the moment and in your location. She recommends inviting yourself to listen to the sounds of nature, wherever that may be for you, and taking in all of the natural movements around you. Pay attention to the wind rippling through the trees, or the movement of water flowing downstream. Think of birdsong as an orchestra that is playing just for you.
Melanie’s book walks us through Forest Bathing in every season, with practical tips and beautiful illustrations on every single page. There is so much more in the “Joy of Forest Bathing” and in our podcast interview, but here are some light samples of how we should approach these meditative walks in each season.
In the Winter we should dress appropriately and take forest bathing walks before, during, and after a snowfall. Reward ourselves with a piping hot thermos of tea after our walks to help transition back into daily life.
In the Spring we should pay attention to new blossoms and the rebirth of the natural world around us. According to Melanie we should also “find carpets of wildflowers after snowmelt” and “Enjoy newly flowing waters.”
In the Summer Melanie encourages us to “lie back and soar with the birds” and “go barefoot and swim or splash in the water.” Summer may be the most natural of all the seasons for forest bathing. But we should make these walks a part of our lives all year long.
In the Fall Melanie suggests that we should “allow (ourselves) both excitement and melancholy” and “gather autumn leaves, fall flowers, acorns, and other treasures.”
Jeremy and Stephanie Go Forest Bathing
After talking to Melanie, both Stephanie and Jeremy were determined to go on a quiet forest bathing walk without the kids or each other. Stephanie went first and headed for a quiet little trail close to home. She decided to bring Maggie the Camping Dog with her to help her slow down and take in all of the sights, smells, and sounds. Maggie is a natural at forest bathing.
Stephanie enjoyed letting Maggie set a leisurely pace and she decided to turn off the rings on her Apple watch and leave her phone in the car. She snapped a few quick photos at the end of the walk. Stephanie really enjoyed noticing all of the mushrooms along the trail.
Jeremy went a little further from home and got stuck in some nasty rush hour traffic right after work. So his forest bathing walk started out with a bit of stress. But as soon as he pulled into the park and realized that he practically had the whole place to himself he started to relax. He noticed how summer and fall were both intermingling in the park. There were leaves on the ground but the air was warm and summery.
The highlight of Jeremy’s walk was kicking off his shoes and socks and dipping his feet into the bay. After that he decided to do the rest of his forest bathing walk barefoot. The feel of the pine needles underneath his feet was warm and inviting.
We both enjoyed these walks so much! Melanie’s book, The Joy of Forest Bathing, was a complete inspiration to both of us. We hope to continue forest bathing deep into the winter. With warm tea served afterwords, to help us transition back into daily life.
To find out more about Melanie Choukas-Bradley’s books and to find out dates and locations for her guided forest bathing walks, please click here.
See you at the Campground!
Stephanie + Jeremy