What exactly is forest bathing?

Turns out the best medicine for exhaustion, burn out and existential dread is heading into the wild.

RACHEL MCGRATH
RACHEL MCGRATH

You're stressed, over-caffeinated and filled with an existential dread whenever you check the news or your to-do list. Exhaustion fizzles and cracks from your joints as if you have some weird, fatigue-fuelled form of the bends. The diagnosis seems inescapable: You're a human in 2019.

So what, then, does it take in this very online, very demanding world to disconnect a bit? To stop the almost trigger-finger shape your scrolling thumb has taken on?

Japan, with its leagues of chronic overwork and cities ablaze in neon, seems to have the most perfectly low-tech answer: forest bathing. Haven't you heard? It's basically the new hygge. Look at you, dealing with the crushing weight of late capitalism by appropriating the coping mechanisms of other cultures! You so got this.

But before you drag your soap-on-a-rope to Point Pleasant Park, there's no literal bathing at play here. It's about soaking your soul in some fresh air, all W. B. Yeats like. Here's how:

1. Know the difference between forest bathing and a simple walk in the woods.

This is not the time for you to Instagram Live how #outdoorsy you are. Some say that hardcore forest bathers go barefoot to truly feel at one with the forest, and notice the texture of the forest floor (inadvisable in Halifax winters or animal-off-leash, potential-poop zones, but you do you). The only real requirements, though, are simple: Pack your mindfulness and leave your phone at home.


2. Pick an adventure you're excited about.

Part of the experience is making it an experience—so why not make a mini-pilgrimage to a swath of green you've been dying to see, anyway? While HRM has no shortage of parks and natural spaces, the more rugged a place feels, the more it'll contrast from your day-to-day drone. Top picks include the craggy cliffside of Duncan's Cove hiking trail, which you can get to by bus 402 (and features possibly the wildest sea spray you've ever seen) and the Planet Earth feature-worthy Bluff Wilderness Trail—accessible by bus 21. Looking for a flatter, straighter path that's easier to navigate and could even handle the wheels of a stroller or something? The Salt Marsh Trail in Cole Harbour (bus-able if you take the 59) is your forest bathing bae.


3. Plan your expedition.

No matter if you're hoping to explore the almost-untouched-feeling Purcell's Cove Backlands or hit up the central-but-still-woodsy Shubie Park, being prepared will help you focus on communing with nature versus worrying about getting lost. Resources worth checking out include the outdoors blog halifaxtrails.ca and the Facebook group Trips By Transit (which plans group outings by bus to local snippets of nature and has a website listing what destinations are on which bus route—handy!) Another helpful site to peep? The Chebucto Hiking Club's, which can serve as a blueprint for your own trip within HRM and further afield.


4. Stay in the moment.

Unlike hiking, forest bathing doesn't help you reach your daily step goal. It does, though, see you slow down and feel the breeze on your face and smell the mossy smell of rotting leaves that, for some reason, is pleasant even though it should be gross. It's not just about getting outside, but being outside. With air this fresh, there really is #nofilter required. a

About The Author

Morgan Mullin

Morgan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She’s been with The Coast since 2016.

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