American mind, body, spirit circles have been hopping on the bandwagon of Forest Bathing in the last couple of years. Forest bathing (or shinrin-yoku) began as a health program introduced by the Japanese government in the early 80s to encourage people to connect with nature for the sake of their health. In the ensuing years, the government funded multiple studies that showed very real physical effects of the practice including decreased blood pressure and lower levels of stress hormones.
I was reminded of shinrin-yoku in a book that Beyond Words published a couple of weeks ago by Dailly Om founder Madisyn Taylor called Unmedicated: The Four Pillars of Natural Wellness. It lays out a holistic plan for treating anxiety through meditation, journaling, regenerative nutrition and exercise, and community. Despite what the title might imply, it very pointedly does not shame people who choose to use medication to treat mental illness (like me)—it just provides and alternate path. That path happens to include regularly connecting with nature.
My personal position is that if someone needs medication to manage mental illness, it’s important that they shouldn’t feel ashamed to do so. I’ve found that even when taking medication, however, it’s important to treat yourself kindly and engage in behaviors that help you feel at peace. While for something to be truly forest bathing it must conform to a strict set of guidelines, it’s still a simple and nourishing idea: go outside and savor the experience.
A hike, for instance, is not really forest bathing, what with its structured endpoints and physical exertion. But a short path through a gorgeous place can’t help but have a positive effect, and the idea of a *leisurely* hike was appealing. In Astoria this past weekend, we brought our niece’s visiting Flat Stanley and enjoyed the outdoors. We did a one mile hike to the cathedral tree, up some muddy pathways and slick wooden staircases, past ferns growing from the mossy trunks of trees, and to the Astoria column and a wide-open view of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean.
I shot most of these photos (except for the ones taken with my phone) in manual, something I’m still trying to get the hang of. Please, bear with my blurriness.