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What is Forest Bathing?

What exactly is forest bathing? The practice of shinrin-yoku (literally translated as "forest bath" or "taking in the forest atmosphere"), was first used in Japan in the 1980s, and gave rise to the term. One of its goals was to provide respite for the effects of overworking and tech burnout. It was also call to action for people to reconnect with and protect the nation's forests.

This type of "eco-therapy" was quickly adopted by the Japanese. Scientists began investigating the physiological advantages of forest bathing in the '90s, proving what we already knew to be true: spending time in nature is good for us.

While the term shinrin-yoku was coined in Japan, the concept behind the practice has been around for a long time. In many cultures, the natural world has long been regarded as a source of health and well-being.

The in-depth practice of forest bathing has been found to lower blood pressure, heart rates, and levels of harmful hormones — like cortisol, which your body produces when stressed. This can help put you in a more calm and relaxed state.

Forest bathing isn't just for nature lovers, though; it can be as simple as taking a  mindful walk in the woods and taking in to the sounds, smells, and sights around you. The key is to live fully in the moment while bathing your senses in nature.

You should always be on the lookout for potential dangers and follow well-marked trails. You should also wear the proper clothing and bring water, sunscreen and any other gear for weather conditions. Any potential risks, such as wildlife or uneven terrain, should also be considered.

A friend or family member should be aware of your whereabouts and how long you plan to be gone. Two to three-hour guided forest bathing excursions are available for those who prefer a safer, community experience. 

Tie your forest bathing practice to a meditation and/or journaling routine. After each session, use your journal to keep track of what you experienced or any thoughts you had while immersed in nature. This is a good way to keep track of how the practice is making you feel over time.

Best Places for Forest Bathing in Virginia

Virginia is known for its lush landscapes, breathtaking views, trails and vast forests. If you're looking for an escape from the city, Virginia is a great place to go forest bathing. There are plenty of places to enjoy nature and let your worries melt away. Here are some of the best spots in Virginia for forest bathing.

Rose River Falls - Shenandoah National Park

Rose River Falls is a 2.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Syria, Virginia that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking but there are plenty of opportunities to take in a quiet meditation and explore.

Dark Hollow Falls -Shenandoah National Park

Dark Hollow Falls Trail is a 1.4 mile heavily trafficked trail located near Stanley, Virginia that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and walking and is best used from April until October.

Laura Lake Trail Loop

Laura Lake Trail Loop is a 2.5 mile loop trail located near Basye, Virginia that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.