Forest Bathing

Volunteer Photography Corps Project by Karen Lauterbach

What is Forest Bathing

People have sought solace in nature for eons, but the concept of “forest bathing” is relatively new. It emerged in the 1980s in Japan at a time when the technological revolution was in full swing, and people were stressed and burned out.  The Japanese government began encouraging shinrin-yoku — or “taking in the forest air” — to de-stress.  A secondary goal was to encourage residents to reconnect with and protect the nation’s forests – and to realize that forests have value beyond logging. 

One of the early champions of forest bathing was Dr. Quing Li, a physician at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo.  You can read more about his research here.  His book – Forest Bathing:  How Trees Help You Find Health and Happinesshelped launch the global forest bathing movement. 

Blending mindfulness with nature appreciation, forest bathing is now practiced in many countries around the world, including in the United States.  And fortunately for Duke students, faculty, staff, and neighbors, the over 7,000 acres of Duke Forest provide many venues for forest bathing.

How to Practice Forest Bathing

As you head into the forest to begin your forest bathing exercise, you will find that it comes easily, especially if you silence your devices.  The goal is to slow down and take in the forest through all the five senses.

Feel the tree bark and the breeze, listen to the birdsong and flowing water, smell the scent of the pine trees and the rich soil, see the sunlight filtering through the trees, and bring a small snack to savor.

You can sit or walk slowly – whatever allows you to be observant. Close your eyes, and imagine you are seeing the forest for the first time.  Try not to think about your to-do list or life’s challenges.  Just take time to savor the forest.

Places to Forest Bathe in Duke Forest

Anywhere, of course! These are a few of Karen’s favorites. You can find them on our maps.

  • Korstian Division: Bluffs End Trail
  • Korstian Division: Concrete Bridge Trail
  • Durham Division: Shepherd Nature Trail


Forest Bathing:  How Trees Help You Find Health and Happiness, Dr. Qing Li, MD, PhD

Shinrin Yoku:  The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing, Yoshifumi Miyazaki

The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing, Julia Plevin

The Secret Therapy of Trees, Marco Mencagli and Marco Nieri

CNN Video about Forest Bathing

Not able to get into the Forest today? Enjoy 17 minutes of immersive video of New Hope Creek and 25 minutes of tributaries and creeks in the Durham Division, both produced by the Office of the Duke Forest.

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