I went forest bathing recently. I might have done it in Japan, where forest bathing is a national pastime, but I chose Tasmania.
Forest bathing involves walking or resting in a forest and absorbing the environment. I did my bathing in various places, including Mt Wellington. I breathed in fresh mountain air, complete with many unusual organisms for a city boy. There is some evidence that the air in forests contain a wider variety of organisms and that this variety helps our immune system operate — responding well to threats without over-responding.
In that air I smelled eucalypts. I felt wind on my skin and soil and rocks beneath me. I heard the rustling of trees in some places and a brook running in others.
I looked at the trees that surrounded me, and I understood forest bathing. Becoming part of beautiful, living nature is pleasing.
The exercise aspect of forest bathing also has positive physical and mental effects. Pumping up our heart rate at times reminds the body that staying strong and healthy is still important, even though we may spend much of life sitting.
Many studies show that nature experiences have positive psychological and physical effects.
But not everyone can walk. And not everyone has time for big nature adventures. For those individuals, a visit to a botanic garden, such as the one in Hobart and in many other cities, can have similar effects. In a botanic garden, the odds are high of seeing and smelling flowers and a huge variety of flora.
Some people find benefit in a beach walk. We could call that beach bathing. Walking a white-sand beach in the Bay of Fires in Tasmania, I took delight in the orange lichen that covered some boulders. Here, I thought, is an antidote to civilisation.
Other variants of forest bathing involve swimming in the ocean or climbing a peak. I reckon that I am more likely to drown than to fall and break my neck, so put me down for peak climbing.
How does forest bathing help cleanse us of our worries and woes? It led me to feel part of something big and beautiful — something amazing — that made my cares seem less important and me feel more important. Some scientists speculate that being in nature helps us feel at home, just as our ancestors did thousands of years ago.
Call me Nature Boy.