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Forest Bathing: A Better Way to Take a Walk

When you hear the term forest bathing, you may think swimming in a lake surrounded by trees. Although it does take place in a forest, there is no water involved.

Rather, the aim of forest bathing is to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment. Take the time to focus on your surroundings by using all your senses.

Now, this may sound just like a hike, but it’s not. The emphasis is on taking in your surroundings like touching the bark of a tree, taking in the colors of the leaves or the sounds of the crickets and birds.

While hiking you may miss these trying to cover more ground. While forest bathing, you may cover very little ground.

The term shinrin-yoku, which translates roughly to forest bathing, was coined in the early 1990s in Japan. The practice traditionally takes people into the forest for a few hours up to a few days, while integrating activities to develop greater mindfulness and presence.

Benefits of forest bathing, or nature therapy, include stress reduction, mental relaxation, boosts to the immune system and improved heart health, sleep, concentration and memory. A 2011 study compared the effects of forest bathing and walking in the city and although both activities required equal amounts of physical activity, researchers concluded that the forest environment led to more significant reductions in blood pressure and stress hormones.

Of course, spending time in nature for your health is not new. But more and more these days, people spend more time indoors tethered to electronic devices. Which means now is a good time to turn everything off, don your walking shoes and slowly stroll around the beautiful Northern Arizona country.

BEST PLACES TO FOREST BATHE IN NORTHERN ARIZONA

  • White Spar Campground. Beautiful Arizona forest full of ponderosa pine, manzanita, oak, shrubs and grasses.
  • Locket Meadow. Known for brilliant fall colors and gorgeous landscape.
  • Sterling Pass Trail. The trail leads from Oak Creek Canyon into the scenic Sterling Canyon of the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness.
  • Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS). A variety of terrain and easy walkways make this perfect for a bit of shinrin-yoku.

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