by Stephanie Kolentisis
Are you feeling cooped up and disconnected from nature? You're not alone. With the endless hours spent inside during the rainy season, many of us are craving some fresh air and green space. With spring finally here, I decided to try forest bathing as a way to reconnect with nature.
What is Forest Bathing?
Now, I know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry—it doesn’t involve taking your clothes off. Forest bathing is closer to a mindful walk than an outdoor bath. You simply walk or sit and take in the sights, sounds, and smells around you. The idea is that you feel refreshed and a little less stressed.
The name forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, emerged in Japan in the 1980s, but it’s a popular practice around the world. If you’ve ever walked slowly through a park, taking it all in, then you’ve forest bathed too.
What Are the Benefits?
Numerous research studies have looked at how spending time in nature makes us healthier and happier. They found a long list of benefits, including decreased cortisol, stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and improved mood. Basically, less stress and better mental health. Who doesn’t need that?
Plus, forest bathing is free, and anyone can do it. You don’t need to sign up for a fancy workshop, although those do exist. Singapore is the most expensive city in the world so I’m going to take a free activity when I can get one.
How Do You Do It?
It’s all about being present. To get the most out of forest bathing, turn off your phone. Take a break from technology and connect with what’s going on around you.
Take slow, deep breaths. Noticing your breath will help you to connect with the present moment.
Then, tune in to your senses. What smells do you notice? What sounds do you hear? Reach out and touch a few of the plants. Notice their shape and texture. Try to keep your eyes open, noticing the different colours and movements around you. If your attention drifts back to your inner monologue, try to return it to the world around you by remaining observant and mindful.
Forest Bathing in Singapore
There are lots of great nature walks in Singapore that are perfect for forest bathing. Some of my favourite city escapes are Coney Island, Ulu Sembawang, and Clementi Forest. Each of these has something unique to offer.
Coney Island is my pick for fellow Easties. You get a mix of forest, sand, and sea. It isn’t as well-known as nearby Pulau Ubin, so if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find a quiet cove all to yourself. Despite the name, Coney Island is actually connected to the mainland so it’s easy to get to. Bring a bike or some comfortable shoes with you as Coney Island is surprisingly big.
A hidden gem just north of MacRitchie, Ulu Sembawang feels like somewhere fairies would live. It’s a misty meadow full of wildflowers that looks especially pretty at dawn and dusk. It makes a great walk when combined with the nearby Mandai T15 trail.
This is one of the few forests in Singapore that has unpaved trails and promised to cure my desire for the wild. Because there aren’t any paved trails, it can get a bit muddy after the rain. The nearby Green Corridor is a good alternative if you’d rather stay dry.
Your Local Park or Garden
Don’t worry if you can’t make it to one of the spots above. You can enjoy the magic of forest bathing from your local park or garden. Just tune in to nature and be fully present to enjoy the benefits.
My Experience With Forest Bathing
Forest bathing is rewarding, but it’s a change of pace, and all change takes some getting used to. I had to resist the urge to walk faster and get somewhere. There were also a few moments when I instinctively reached for my phone, even though I had turned it off. The urge to take a photo, check a map, or text a friend kept creeping in.
After about 20 minutes, I started to feel more at ease. Less in my head and more in my senses. I noticed not only the trees, but also the breeze and the birds. The colours around me started to look extra vibrant. I felt like I could breathe deeper.
If you’re looking for ways to destress and rediscover the beauty of nature this spring, try forest bathing. It's a simple yet powerful solution to leave you feeling refreshed and recharged.
Stephanie Kolentisis is a learning designer with over 13 years of experience working as an educator across Asia. She’s also an explorer who loves to share her adventures with the AWA community. You can check out her website at www.sklearningdesign.com