The Art and Practice of Forest Bathing

Read Time: 6 minutes

Letting nature recharge your creative spirit

Sometimes life gets chaotic and we need to find a steady course through the chaos. Forest bathing may be the key to finding true north on your mental compass. But, what the heck is forest bathing?

Shinrin-yoku

The Japanese have a term called Shinrin-yoku. It centers around the idea of simply being in nature with no goal besides enjoying being in nature. They view it as the medicine of being in the forest, where we can soak up the healing ways of being in nature.

There are many studies showing how the simple act of spending time in nature can have legit health benefits, both mentally and physically. Check out this article from NPR that talks about ways it can help boost booth mood and immunity.

Seriously guys, this is a real thing.

I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of it either.

A while back I stumbled across a couple of articles by the fantastic Patrick LaRoque. He mentioned a term called “Forest Bathing” and I was intrigued. He talked about how being in nature helped clear his mind. How just being in nature and breathing it in brought a sense of peace. There was a line in one of those articles I loved, talking about how he just sat there hearing the ticking of snow as it fell and hit his jacket. It brought me to the forest immediately because I’ve enjoyed that very moment a thousand times over. It never gets old.

You can find his articles here:

Alpha & Theta

Postcard from the Break

Not only does he write beautifully, but he’s a terrific photographer and his work is always a joy to take in.

But this idea of forest bathing sounded familiar to me. It may sound familiar to some of you as well if you’ve been following me for a while.

Without knowing, I’ve been forest bathing for years.

I never realized there was a name for it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as we label everything these days. But forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, is something I’ve practiced for many years. Anytime that I’m feeling my stress levels rise, life feels chaotic, I get bad news, etc. I have a natural inclination to be out in nature.

Recently I had the honor of being a guest on the StreetShots podcast with Antonio Rosario, truly a fantastic guy and terrific conversation. During that episode I actually talk about how getting out in nature is my happy place. It’s where I go to find peace. Nature helps me find a way to get grounded and centered mentally.

When my world feels like it’s spinning out of control, the needle on my compass spiraling wildly, a few hours enjoying nature helps calm that spinning a bit. It brings things back into focus while helping to ease the concerns. I’m brought back to my true north.

Great, so you’re a hippy practicing some new age nature therapy. So what, how does that relate to anything photographic?

I can totally imagine people reading this and having that exact thought. I assure you I’m not into any new age anything and I’m certainly no hippy. But it does relate to photography for me because I tend to find myself making photographs out in nature more often than I shoot any other type of work. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Being born and raised with nature literally steps away from my door, I have a strong appreciation and respect for nature. I hunt, fish, hike, and explore anytime I get the chance. I also respect the natural world and try to never take anything for granted.

While out enjoying nature, if you open yourself up to the wonders around you, you’ll start to see and feel the amazing details that play out every day. Details and events that occur with or without people to witness it. Dramatic slices of daily life that many never get a chance to take in because they either don’t enjoy nature or they haven’t found the ability to just be present when out in the woods.

These are the things I find my camera pointed towards more often than not. Small sections of this crazy world that somehow give a sense of calm amidst the chaos.

Forest Bathing, Shinrin-Yoku, or finding your true north.

No matter what label you slap on it, the result is the same. Get out in nature and just take the time to really BE there. Take in the sounds and smells, the feeling of stillness on a quiet day or the soothing hum on a windy day. Let nature in.

Scientists say it’ll help you physically with everything from blood pressure to boosting immune systems. I say it will help you let go of stress. Help you find peace. Give you clarity.

Best of all, it will help you recharge creatively. Even if you aren’t a landscape photographer, spending time in nature like this will help get your creative juices flowing. In the stillness of the forest your mind is free to wander and dream. Problems seem easier to solve. Ideas flow just a little faster.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever refer to it as forest bathing. It makes sense to call it that from the stand point of allowing the forest to cleanse your mind, but I can’t see myself calling it that.

For me it is simple.

I’m centering my compass and getting back to true north.

Or I’m just heading out for a hike.

Whatever you decide to call it, I encourage you to get out and really let nature in. Let it work it’s magic, then let me know how you feel after. I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, here are a few images from last fall that I recently re-discovered. They have been able to bring me back to those moments, to the point where I can almost smell the crisp autumn air and feel the play of warm sun and cool air on my face.

 

Gear Notes

All photos were created with a Fuji X Series cameras and lenses.

Images all processed in Lightroom Classic with the Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading Pro Set IV system as my base for all of my custom processing.

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4 Replies to “The Art and Practice of Forest Bathing”

  1. Hey Dave, loved the latest podcast episode. Thank you for sharing what sounds like to be an immensely tough time.

    It’s so valuable in times like this, as you said, to have things like nature to turn to in order to get back in touch with the rhythm of nature. Thank you for reminding us all how something as simple as sitting in nature for a few moments can help us find some peace amidst the chaos.

    Similar to you, I grew up with nature right outside my house. I spent most of my childhood outside, wandering the forest. Nature is what inspired me to start photography, and ultimately – my artwork.

    I hope you can find lots of “forest bathing” opportunities this week!
    The weather here is still snowy and cold but I head out with my kids whenever we can.

    Take care,
    Shelley

    PS: I’m a huge Japanese culture/language fan so I was extra stoked for this week’s episode. Your pronunciation wasn’t bad at all 😉

    1. Hey Shelley,

      First, thanks so much for listening and taking time to reach out! Honestly it’s friends of the show like yourself that make doing the show worth it, even when I’m just dealing with a ton and struggling to make it happen! I truly appreciate that so much.

      It’s funny because I got into photography as more than just an occasional hobby because I was trying to learn to draw, using magazine photos as inspiration and then realizing I had a camera and while recovering from a major back surgery I decided to start taking my own “inspiration” photos for my drawing practice… I quickly realized I was much better with a camera than with a pencil(or pen, or paint brush hehe) and the passion for photography took over! Sounds like almost the opposite order of your art journey, we really do need to set up a time soon to have a chat on the show, I’d love to hear your creativity story!

      Thank you again for the well wishes also, yeah things are pretty scary and tough right now here, but we’ll get through it! The sun popped out this afternoon after night/morning thunderstorms and it’s windy and about 55F right now so a nice evening for a walk indeed.

      Also, I was SO TERRIFIED that I was absolutely butchering that pronunciation and if my wife was home she could have helped me with it as she actually lived in Japan for 3-4 years through junior high/middle school! Honestly though, I’m starting to realize that there is a HUGE and AMAZING knowledge base/mindset in the Japanese culture around creativity and I’m super fascinated by it currently!

      Shelley, thanks again and wishes of continued good health for you and your family,
      Dave

      1. Dave,

        Listening is truly my pleasure. I’ve learned a lot from what you have had to say and I mention your podcast to all my creative friends.

        Oh wow that is so interesting! Haha, funny how that worked out!
        Goes to show that there really is value in trying new things, because you really don’t know where it will lead.

        Glad you’ve got some good weather happening over there. Sun seems to help lift the spirit. All the snow we got yesterday is melting, leaving all the ice that was there before it. Nice and slippery. Perfect opportunity for the snow we have on the way to cover it all up and make walking extra tricky 😉

        That’s so fascinating! I feel a little envious of her experience in Japan. I had planned to study there for university. She must have some amazing knowledge of their culture. Very cool to have that first-hand experience!

        And yes, I would love to set up a time for a chat.
        Feel free to shoot me an email whenever!

        Thanks again Dave!

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