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Forest Bathing: Nature's wellbeing boost

In our latest blog post, Sarah Hourigan of Nature Therapy Ireland talks about Forest Bathing and how the simple practice of spending time walking amongst trees can improve our overall health and wellbeing. Find out what she has to say below and thank you Sarah for sharing your knowledge and love of the outdoors with us.


If you’ve ever moved slowly through a forest, listened to the wind in the trees or noticed the sunshine filtering through the leaves, then you’ve already practiced forest bathing in your own way.

What is forest bathing?

Many cultures have long recognized the importance of nature for our health. While the concept at the core of this practice is not new, Japan is credited with the term ‘shinrin-yoku’ or ‘bathing in the forest atmosphere’.

This evidence-based practice was developed during the 1980’s tech boom when an increase in stress-related illness from overwork in urbanized areas was noticed.

What are the health & wellbeing benefits of Forest Bathing?

During the 1990’s, researchers began investigating the health benefits of forest bathing, providing us with the science to back up our innate knowledge: time spent immersed in nature is good for our mind, body and souls.

Forest bathing is now an accepted part of Japanese preventative health care and widely considered a powerful antidote to the pressures of our modern world. It is proven to deliver lasting benefits for our physical and mental well-being, such as:

· Improve immune system functioning

· Increase relaxation and reduce stress

· Restore cognitive fatigue

· Improve mood and reduce depression

· Enhance vitality and energy levels

· Reduce blood pressure

· Decrease rumination and anxiety levels

· Aid sleep

· Improve heart health.

How does Forest Bathing work on our health & wellbeing?

One such way is through ‘phytoncides’, essential oils released by trees and plants to defend against insects, animals and decomposition.

Photographer: Madeline Mulqueen

International research is discovering that these airborne chemical compounds also appear to benefit humans. They can lower our levels of the stress hormone cortisol, our pulse rate and blood pressure while increasing the levels of natural killer cells and white blood cells that make up our immune system.

Research has also shown that, on an average week, people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature are significantly more likely to report higher levels of good health and psychological wellbeing than those who don’t visit nature at all.

Forest Europe (2019) found five key mechanisms that account for these health benefits of time spent in forests:

· Reduced exposure to noise and air pollution.

· Psychological and physiological restoration.

· Strengthened immune system through nature contact.

· Increased physical activity.

· Community and social connection.

What happens on a forest bathing walk?

Never have we been so removed from the natural world, especially those of us that live and work in cities. But the good news is that even a small amount of time spent in nature can have a positive impact on our health. A two-hour forest bathing walk will help you to disconnect from technology and really slow down, bringing you back to the present moment.

Photographer: Madeline Mulqueen

The focus of forest bathing is not about strenuous exercise, it is a gentle walk through natural surroundings with many opportunities to slow down and pause.

Nature Therapy Ireland invites you to come as you are, without expectation, and simply be in nature.

They use a series of invitations to gently guide you in encounters with nature, to awaken your senses and hopefully shift the focus from your busy mind to the natural world surrounding you. To the sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes and anything else you may notice in a way that feels right for you.

What do Forest Bathers say?

“These Forest Bathing sessions have helped me to reduce that stress, to sit and take time and see life from the bigger picture. As a former healthcare worker myself, I think you have tapped into something special here, and continues to make a real difference to me and enhances my life experience”.

Photographer: Madeline Mulqueen

Forest Bathers also mention things like:

“I am now able to pause and sit down.”

“Makes you realise that we are only one of many species…part of nature.. reassured me and given me a sense of calm.


“Helped me slowdown in my life.”

How do I take part?

If you are looking to deepen and explore your connection to nature, there are many Forest Bathing practitioners across Ireland at this stage.

For the best experience possible, we recommend you use certified forest training guides.

Sarah of Nature Therapy Ireland is one such practitioner and offers her services in locations across the East and South East, like Dublin and Waterford. You can find Nature Therapy Ireland at and on socials here &

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