by Karen Lauterbach (member of the Volunteer Photography Corps)
See Karen’s Forest Bathing in Duke Forest Resource
I have been practicing “forest bathing” for more than three decades, but I only recently learned there was a term for my practice. I live within walking distance of Duke Forest, and it is where I have always gone to relax and recharge. I didn’t know that my practice had a name half-way around the world.
Shinrun yoku, a Japanese term that means “taking in the forest air,” was embraced by the Japanese in the early 1980s as an antidote to stress created by the rapid rise of technology. The government promoted forest bathing as a way to help tech workers prevent and treat burnout.
The idea soon spread around the world to equally stressed populations in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere.
Forest bathing combines physical exercise – walking – with a psychological component — mindfulness. The goal is to walk in nature and connect with the environment though the senses. Take in the beautiful vistas, smell the pine scent, listen to the birds and the flowing stream, feel the smooth stones, soft moss, and cool water. And once you are deep in the forest, you can find a comfortable spot to sit and contemplate.
In the 1990s scientists began studying the benefits of forest bathing, lending support to the idea that time spent in nature is beneficial in many ways. One of the leaders in the field shares his research here.
Duke Forest provides some wonderful places for forest bathing. My favorite destination is the Bluffs Trail (in the Korstian Division inside Gate 24 off of Wooden Bridge Rd.) and the trails along the New Hope Creek near the bluffs (NHC-South). But there are many other places in Duke Forest to practice forest bathing. You can find more information about forest bathing in Duke Forest here.