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How forest bathing can help you reconnect with ‘you’

An invite from Forestry England to join Carina at Forest Bathe UK in the Forest of Dean seemed like the perfect opportunity for Matthew to recapture his childhood adventures.

As a child, I was fortunate to be brought up in the countryside. Our family would take huge walks every weekend into the forest. I didn't think much of it at the time. When I look back at those times now, I have only fond memories. Climbing trees. Disappearing in the wildflower meadows. No tech. No distractions other than natures playground to play in. Many years on and I'm positive those escapes helped to sow the seed for my career exploring the outdoors.

Located in the western part of the county of Gloucestershire, the Forest of Dean is 42 sq. miles of mixed woodland is one of the last surviving ancient woodlands in England. I’ve only read a few articles on forest bathing, but I found the concept and its origins fascinating. Shinrin-yoku (or forest bathing) means ‘bathing’ all the senses, while walking slowly in the forest.

When taking in the forest atmosphere like this, the brain naturally switches off from the ‘sustained directed attention’ of life’s daily pressures. Shinrin-yoku is restorative, both mentally and physically. Just like a bath.

Sounds great, right? And hand on heart - it genuinely was.

The first thing that hit me when entering the Forest of Dean was the sense of quiet and peacefulness. A gentle breeze rustled the canopies of leaves above, full of vibrant autumn colours.

The day started with a gentle walk into the forest. With almost no talking you have the mental space to absorb the nature around you. The birds singing, the wind, babbling streams. Then the majesty of the trees 200ft plus tall, hundreds of years old. It was calming to be in the presence of Mother Nature at her finest.

The bathing was simply being present, while surrounded by this nature. Carina guided me to place my hands on the trees to feel their energy, and to collect fallen flora from beneath the trees to remain mindful. We ended with a simple meditation to release the last of any worries or stress.

Lunch was a forest feast, all organic and from the local area. Washed down with tea carefully picked from bushes from the forest. Simple, clean and calming.

Ultimately the whole experience was blissfully simple. And yet, the result is quite profound. I left with a new sense of calm. Like the blackboard of daily life had been wiped clean. I was invigorated and inspired and ready for the daily challenges ahead. Does it solve all life's problems? Of course not. But it does without question allow the mind to empty and reboot. I feel that's sometimes that's all we really need.

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