LAST weekend, I dipped my toe in the fresh waters of forest bathing.

Forest bathing is the practice of spending time escaping from it all in the woods – switching your phone off, and taking the opportunity to reconnect with nature, and with trees in particular.

It’s a mixture of mindfulness, meditation and exercise, and is an idea that, if you’ll pardon the pun, is beginning to grow roots in this country.

The concept of forest bathing began in Japan back in the early 1980s, where the practice is known as shinrin-yoku.

Its origins are a combination of a response to the high levels of stress among Japanese workers and a long-standing reverence for trees and forests in Japanese culture.

From small beginnings, shinrin-yoku is now practiced by millions in Japan and developed around the world.

Although this might all sound a bit ‘hygge a tree’, there is in fact a wealth of scientific evidence to show how forest bathing can help with reducing blood pressure and stress, and boost both energy and the immune system.

One of the reasons suggested is the phytoncides or natural oils found within plants and trees.

Exposure to such oils can help with depression and forests are full of the stuff.

Another is the role of Mycobaterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria found in soil that again the forest air is packed with: this again helps in terms of both mood and the immune system (similar benefits can be found in gardening, but please don’t tell Mrs B that).

The session I took was led by Lindsey Death, founder of Dorset Forest Bathing.

Lindsey runs sessions across Dorset and Wiltshire, and I joined one of her small groups in a wood just north of Salisbury.

A conservationist by trade, Lindsey described how she first took part in a pilot scheme in Weymouth, leading wellbeing walks in a nearby nature reserve.

These became part of a ‘green prescriptions’ scheme, where GPs can prescribe exercise and interaction with nature to patients.

Over two hours, Lindsay skilfully gave the group an introduction into forest bathing.

We spent time doing exercises such as observing an individual tree for ten minutes, walking barefoot, going off track and exploring, and lying on blankets looking up at the tree canopies.

With phones switched off, the two hours went both surprisingly quickly and slowed down at the same time.

The world outside the forest peeled away, and I became more aware of the different senses.

The sounds, smells and details of the forest I might otherwise have overlooked.

I entered the woods feeling cynical and uncertain, but left feeling recharged, relaxed and refreshed.

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