Under a canopy of trees you may find yourself in a deep state of mindfulness. This is what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku or ‘Forest Bathing’. Now don’t worry, it doesn’t mean wondering about a forest in your swimming costume. It simply means slowing down and engaging with nature on a sensory level. Studies have grown in number showcasing the benefits that forest bathing can give you.
With a deeper awareness of what is going around you in nature, almost acts as distraction from the worries and ailments that day to day life throws at you. With the distraction, the body is then allowing itself to heal and become renewed and able to carry on.
Persona’s Financial Director Bernard Noblett, unbeknownst to him, was already on the path of Shinrin-yoku.
“I had never heard of forest bathing until a couple of months ago when I read an article about it and realised that I have been doing something similar for years… I grew up living in the countryside and have always spent a lot of time outside but I don’t think I could pinpoint anything in particular that got me into forest bathing as I have never consciously started doing it.
Having read about it I recognise that I don’t forest bath in the strictest sense as I don’t always go into woodland. I also spend a lot of time on the moors or on farmland and I always have my camera with me which goes against the guidelines as you are advised not to take a phone, camera or any other sort of device with you.
I don’t think I could pick a favourite experience, they are all enjoyable in their own way whether it is sitting behind a stone wall on the moors in driving rain, sitting under a tree in the woods as day breaks, standing in a field watching sheep or sitting by still water watching the light change.
It is almost always something I do first thing in the morning, starting either before or just around sunrise. That can be challenging in summer when the sun rises before 5am and a little easier in winter. The more extreme the weather the better I like it, there is nothing quite like watching the sun rise in the middle of nowhere on a bitterly cold morning.
I am always by myself and I will usually leave the house, assess the weather and then decide where to go. I may just wander for a few miles or I may walk for a while and then stop in one place for some time. Sometimes I have a place in mind, other times I just set off and see what interests me. I am usually out for at least a couple of hours but it is not uncommon for me to lose track of time and be out for five hours. When I am just watching what is happening around me I can completely clear my head of any other thoughts. Spending an hour just focussing on a few sheep can be very relaxing.”
Bernard admits that his forest bathing is a happy consequence of his photography. Despite not following the rules of Shinri-Yoku, Bernard has found something that works for him and it shows in his quality of photography. Looking at the cover of any Persona newsletter you will see a photograph taken by Bernard and he is even shortlisted to be added to the BBC’s Country File calendar for 2020.
“I have never consciously thought I will pop out for a spot of forest bathing, it just so happens that… I do a lot of photography and it is quite normal for me to stay in one place for an hour or more just watching whatever might be happening around me. Sometimes it is very little, other times I could be watching deer, hares, foxes or other wildlife or the weather changing around me. By being quiet and slowing down you see and hear so much more.
It costs nothing to do, anyone can do it and you don’t need to go deep into the woods to do it – just go and sit on a bench in a park for a while and take the time to watch the world around you. So why not try it?”
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