Shinrin-yoku: a different way to relax over the holidays

I don’t know about you but I find the Christmas holidays extremely stressful and have since I was 11 years old, but then again, I was a fairly strange kid. I just feel there is a lot of pressure for everyone to be cheerful and grateful and to get along. My family doesn’t really do family time and Christmas is the one time a year where we all get put in one house with very little space to go out of each other’s way and all conflict potential is bottled up and let out on the four days a year where we are all together. Then there is the adult stress of having to get the last things done for this year before starting with the new. I feel my mood go down over Christmas and I generally need a few weeks to recover.

A possible way to destress, not only during the festive season but all year round, is shinrin- yoku, also known as “forest bathing”. Now it has nothing to do with a bubble bath with pine-cone scented bath bombs while visualizing walking through a forest and everything to do with reconnecting with nature.

While I am sure many picture a sweaty hike over several hours it is much more slow paced, less about exercising and seeing who is the fastest and more about mindful walking in nature with becoming aware of our surroundings. It is about engaging all our senses and feeling the earth beneath our feet and how it feels walking over different surfaces, listening to all the sounds around us and those we are making, taking in all the different colours and changes in light and smelling all the different scents, and even touching tress, plants and dipping toes in streams. It is about being present- without our phone and camera and without company to distract us with conversation.

It is something simple that can help us destress and clear our heads and has been shown to improve our immune system, reduce blood pressure, increase energy levels and improve sleep if practiced regularly!

It is something that can be done nearly anywhere in the world (with a few exceptions) as long as there are trees– a forest, a park or a beautiful garden. It can be done in hot or cold weather, in rain, sunshine or snow- you just need the right clothing and off you go. Even a 20 minute bath can have profound effects! Just take some time for yourself to immerse yourself in nature – you deserve it!

It is a small tool you can use to get through the hectic festive season and to help you be more present with your family and loved ones!

I wish you all a stress free and mindful holiday!

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