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Forest Bathing at Bullard Farm

Spending mindful time in nature

A dozen enthusiastic and curious participants gathered at the Bullard Historic Farm in Holliston for an introduction to the mindful activity of forest bathing. Developed in Japan, "Shinrin-Yoku" (translated as forest bathing) is quickly catching on in the US as an activity that increases health, lessens stress, and reconnects us to beneficial elements of nature.

Unlike a spirited hike up a mountain or a run through a woodland trail, forest bathing is more about taking the time to pause and notice the forest in a way that our usual, hurried pace would not allow. Through a series of "invitations", participants reconnect to the land in a way that speaks to them. For example, one of our invitations was to just notice things in motion. For 15 quiet moments, we each chose a spot to sit and observe the movement around us. This "forced relaxation" did more than focus our gaze, it opened our eyes to a world of activity going on all around us - and allowed us to recognize and enjoy it. For those overachievers in the group, this fed perfectly into the need to complete an assignment AND relax at the same time! (This is an especially common theme among women, who often state that they rarely give themselves permission to slow down.) At the end of the observation period, we all gathered to share our thoughts. Unanimously, the group agreed that it was time well spent and hearing the myriad of experiences among the group was fascinating. It became very clear that if each of us had just been hiking through the woods, we would have missed 90% of what was shared.

Our invited guests represented a diverse group of people --all curious about how Shinrin-Yoku could contribute to their wellbeing. Numerous studies have now gained the attention of the mainstream and people are experiencing for themselves the list of benefits derived from this mindful practice, such as:

* Reduced blood pressure

* Lower stress

* Improve cardiovascular and metabolic health

* Lower blood sugar levels

* Improve concentration and memory

* Lift depression

* Increase anti-cancer protein production

* Help you lose weight

For an easy read that describes how these incredible benefits can be gained so easily and enjoyably, check out the book Forest Bathing - How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr. Qing Li. Filled with pages of beautiful photos, large print, and easy to understand language, this is a pleasant read that makes its scientific points in the most relaxing way!

Taking a slow stroll to our first "invitation" location was harder than some people imagined. It's a challenge to slow down our pace when we are anxious or stressed. Beginning our fall event with a relaxed walk gave us time to take in our surroundings.

Have you ever taken the time to observe something in the forest for a full 15 minutes? By resting your gaze on this birch tree, you can see so many interesting features. What does this tree tell you about its time here?

After each invitation there is time for sharing thoughts and observations. If this seems out of your comfort zone - not to worry - sharing is optional, but we find that people easily add to the conversation once they get started. A traditional forest bathing session concludes with a tea ceremony, made from greens found on the journey.

Our participants would agree that this experience encouraged a new relationship with nature. And although it was nice to have a Certified Forest Therapy Guide leading our journey that day, the principles of forest bathing can be practiced at any time and even in your own backyard. We encourage you to make Shinrin-Yoku part of your outdoor experience!


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