Forest bathing and wellbeing

A stream in a forest whose water is used for forest bathing.

Forest bathing in a woodland environment has the potential to transform our wellbeing for the better.

Emma, a karma yoga volunteer at Eco Retreats, recently attended a Social Forestry course with the Open College Network and is hoping to use her certificate to introduce forest bathing and mindfulness activities in the forest at Eco Retreats. To continue our forest wellness theme after our recent article on the benefits of ecotherapy, she shares some of her learnings here:

I am sure anyone who has stayed at Eco Retreats will agree that experiencing time in forest can be truly enchanting, as we walk back into our daily lives feeling peaceful, relaxed and at one with nature.

Enjoying the present moment and being truly present and mindful in an environment free from wifi, phonecalls, meetings and the pressures of modern life can be a challenge within the lifestyles we now live. This is leading to increasing mental and emotional health issues, as people’s energies are slowly drained by the never ending buzz of information that surrounds them. The forest is a place to recharge and find ourselves again, to reconnect with our inner essence.

Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, was introduced from Japan and is being increasingly used as a healing tool by doctors and therapists. The practice involves walking through the forest mindfully. In 1980s extensive scientific research by the Japanese government found that 2 hours spent forest bathing led to a reduction in blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improved concentration and memory beyond the usual correlations between fresh air, exercise and wellbeing. Trees release chemicals called phytoncides which help plant communities grow and stay healthy. These chemicals also boost our immune system, and our bodies automatically take in the right “dose” we need for our wellbeing. While forest bathing, our emotional, physical and spiritual senses are affected in a non-invasive way, which can give us a sense of feeling alive again.

Forest bathing is not like a hike, exercise or nature walk – it consists of walking slowly and attentively through the forest, using all your senses to soak up its special atmosphere. Gentle guided meditations help to quieten the mind and deepen our connection with our surroundings. It can be challenging: your mind might wander, and your pace will involuntarily pick up, but eventually you slow down. The forest bathing experience usually ends with a Japanese tea ceremony and a conversation focused on sharing. In essence, forest bathing feels like taking a deep breath, allowing your shoulders to drop, your body and mind to relax and just enjoy the feeling of being outside.

Spending time in the woods changes the way we feel and think – our biological intelligence and awareness increase, and we start doing what’s best for ourselves. We are genetically hardwired to prefer nature (as opposed to urban environments). This is due to our evolutionary background: we have spent far longer living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle (about 12 million years) than we have living a settled agricultural lifestyle (about 12,000 years), let alone an industrial (about 200 years), or post-industrial (about 50 years) one. Incredibly, the forest acts as psychologically restorative environment — a place that helps bring about recovery. Baseline levels of functional resources and capabilities are restored, those that were diminished through stress, overuse or under-stimulation. Research has even shown that urban areas with more plants and vegetation correlate with a lower crime rate and that people are nicer and happier.

Forest bathing has so much potential to nurture our connection to nature, and ultimately ourselves. This is fundamental if we are to change our mindsets and lifestyles to rebuild a cooperative system, which is so direly needed within the climate crisis we are facing. You can find your local woods at the Woodland Trust and tips for forest bathing at the National Trust.

To assist in incorporating forest bathing and other mindfulness practices into your lifestyle at home, we are currently developing a community platform! Together, we want to better support you in making small changes in your everyday life! Join us to translate the inspiration of the forest into more peaceful and meaningful living. Watch this space for updates!

You can find more information on Social Forestry online at the Centre for Alternative Technology. The next course is in April 2020.

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Emma Leigh Burton
Emma Leigh Burton
2019-10-13T17:43:06+0000
We have just had the best weekend here in the ash valley yurt ! It’s definitely a holiday everyone will remember for a long time ! Thank you for making such a special placeread more
Suzy Box
Suzy Box
2019-10-01T14:52:05+0000
Great place to unwind and reconnect as a couple
Natalie Morris
Natalie Morris
2019-08-28T15:32:34+0000
Just had an amazing few days relaxing in the River Yurt. Beautiful stunning location, peace & tranquility a time to just chill out and watch our daughter play on the open meadow & river. The outdoor bath was perfect on a summer evening to lay back and watch the sky come alive with stars!! Would definitely recommendread more
Rachel Harper
Rachel Harper
2019-08-26T10:57:20+0000
We’ve just had the best 2 nights in the Ash Valley yurt! The outdoor bath was brilliant! Complete privacy, if you don’t include the sheep 🐑 my 11yo boys have loved chopping wood, starting fires, making dens and playing in the stream whilst my partner and I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the peace 😌 I would 100% recommend this place, Margaret and her daughter were most welcoming. You have everything you need already there. Thank you for such a lovely experience xread more
Charlotte Edwards
Charlotte Edwards
2019-08-23T15:10:33+0000
Absolutely magical 😍 I so wish I'd booked for more than two nights! We stayed in the meadow yurt, complete privacy, surrounded by forest and mountains, and nothing to hear but for birds and waterfalls. There is so much on site to explore we didn't have time to see half of it! We spent an afternoon climbing up the hill behind the yurt and swimming in waterfalls before jumping in that beautiful wood fired bath 😍 and visited a few beautiful spots in Snowdonia. Can't wait to come back!read more
Chris Lowe
Chris Lowe
2019-08-22T19:48:00+0000
Peaceful, wonderful setting.
Shea Hollis
Shea Hollis
2019-08-18T16:05:41+0000
Honestly, this place is truly magical. Utter blissful escapism for all ages. Fireheated outdoor bath and your own private waterfall? Just perfect.
Vik Taylor
Vik Taylor
2018-10-24T19:49:57+0000
We enjoyed our 1st stay last week for 4 nights with our baby in a tipi and we loved every second of it. we had a warm welcome when we arrived, tipi already warmed up too. we were supplied with every thing we needed. we enjoyed the lush hot bath looking at the clear sky at night. the view every morning was beautifal. everything so peaceful and quiet. all we could hear was the sound of the running water, trees rustling in the wind and the shoothing sound of wildlife. It was perfect. thankyou to Angus and Margaret. you literally thought of everything. thankyou. Will be booking for next year. cant wait.read more
Stewart Hoyle
Stewart Hoyle
2018-08-24T20:01:19+0000
a get-away from technology
Karen Morley
Karen Morley
2018-07-24T20:27:58+0000
Had a brilliant time in the meadow yurt with our 2 children. It was so peaceful and relaxing, everything that we needed was supplied. It was lovely being able to sit outside by the fire toasting marshmallows and having bbqs. The bath was amazing being able to totally relax outside in the peace and quiet. Our boys loved it especially the bath and paddling in the river. We would recommend to go try it to every one.read more
Neil Stanton
Neil Stanton
2018-06-18T14:38:49+0000
Beautiful location and the facilities were excellent. Spent a very relaxing weekend in the Cwm Onnen Tipi enjoying the scenery. Very comfortable and loved the wood-fired bath. We'll be back next year (hopefully with slightly better weather).read more
Jason Stirzaker
Jason Stirzaker
2018-04-04T11:02:49+0000
After a last minute decision to go away for the night we came across Eco-Retreats and their amazing looking Tipis and Yurts, set in equally amazing surroundings. They were so accomadating for us as we could only stay one night, and had rang up on the same morning we were staying. We got such a warm, friendly welcome and they really do go out their way to be there to meet & greet you (you'll understand just how much when you go). What a truly beautiful site quite literally away from it all. We stayed in the Forest Tipi which was set within it's own patch of land up a short trail to really give it an extra isolated feel. The outdoor bath really is amazing and well worth the wait to warm up, even in early April temperatures and light rain so would be absolutely perfect on more warmer nights. The Tipi itself was equipped with all that you'd need and the Chimenea did a good job of keeping us warm, even with the surprise blanket of snow we got in the night. I'd highly recommend this place to anyone wanting a truly different experience and appreciates being close to nature and getting back to basics, while still retaining the comfort of a bed at night.read more
Eric Stannard
Eric Stannard
2017-08-21T20:43:59+0000
From booking to arrival they were very helpful. After a quick overview of how to operate the tipi and fires we were left to our own devises to enjoy the tranquility and setting of the waterfall tipi. The tipi has everything you need for your stay and we found it warm and dry despite the wet weather. The fire in the tipi takes the place of the TV and the dancing flames soon become mesmerising; the background sounds of the waterfall and rain on canvas are relaxing and the dancing flames of the tea lights in the lanterns complete your escape from the modern world. The rain stopped long enough for us to enjoy a warm bath in the open air in the woods and is well worth the effort of keeping the fire going. All in all a fantastic escape away from modern distractions.read more
Louise Gresty
Louise Gresty
2017-07-26T17:43:03+0000
Brilliant feeling of being miles from anywhere, in a lovely peaceful setting with amazing views, having your own fire either indoors in the stove or outside campfire and it was very comfortable too.read more
Dan Shephard
Dan Shephard
2017-07-23T21:05:33+0000
Christopher Charles
Christopher Charles
2017-05-25T07:10:31+0000
The most beautiful and remotest place I've ever found in wales � we go back year after year and it just gets better ����������������read more
Gracie Hindley
Gracie Hindley
2017-05-15T08:29:13+0000
My boyfriend and I stayed in the Meadow Yurt last weekend. The trip was everything we could have wanted, and more! Beautiful yurt filled with all the equipment you need for your stay. The wood fired bath was also a huge highlight for us. Would thoroughly recommend to anyone wanting a quiet, stress-free getaway!read more
Andrew Calogirou
Andrew Calogirou
2017-05-04T05:36:23+0000
Amazing location and the River Yurt is amazing. Been 2 years in a row now and want to go again already.
Megan Hunt
Megan Hunt
2017-05-02T22:11:54+0000
We loved it here and can not wait to return one day.
Rachel Smiler Berwick
Rachel Smiler Berwick
2017-04-27T14:02:26+0000
Cannot recommend this place enough. It was our 2nd year back this year with our 4 year old & it never fails to impress. We just love staying in the waterfall Tipi :) booking process is excellent & the stay is even better especially being able to have a bath in the forest ;) thankyou again and we will see you next year xxxxread more
Kerrie Henriques
Kerrie Henriques
2017-04-14T18:58:51+0000
Absolutely amazing, such a great experience. Super friendly staff. Thank you �
Will Sfakiotakis
Will Sfakiotakis
2017-04-14T18:53:22+0000
Highly recommended! (River Yurt) A beautiful place to be, hosted by genuine, welcoming, and helpful staff. We will be coming back! A truly grounding and humbling experience. Loved it ��read more
Robert Cox
Robert Cox
2016-10-13T19:11:56+0000
Laurie Rose Belle
Laurie Rose Belle
2016-09-23T19:04:15+0000
What a beautiful place to unwind and relax. My 18 month old son and I loved exploring the area, we splashed in puddles and paddled in the river. In the evenings I enjoyed a glass of wine next to the fire and the best thing of all was no phones. I just wish I'd braved the outdoor bath. I can't wait to visit again next year �read more
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Emma Jill Eberhardt

Emma Jill Eberhardt

Emma is a volunteer at Eco Retreats. She is currently working down the road from Eco Retreats at the Centre for Alternative Technology. Emma recently graduated with a BSc in Environmental Sciences specialising in agroecology, sustainable living and engagement with nature. Emma is really passionate about environmental issues and sustainable living and has been involved with numerous community projects in Cornwall. When she is not leading a project, taking a course, writing or volunteering, Emma can be found somewhere outdoors or exploring her creativity through photography, filming and painting. Emma has recently grown an interest in the need to change our mindsets and nurture our connectivity with nature in order to successfully change our lifestyles to live more sustainably, which led her to get involved with Eco Retreats.
Emma Jill Eberhardt

Emma Jill Eberhardt

Emma is a volunteer at Eco Retreats. She is currently working down the road from Eco Retreats at the Centre for Alternative Technology. Emma recently graduated with a BSc in Environmental Sciences specialising in agroecology, sustainable living and engagement with nature. Emma is really passionate about environmental issues and sustainable living and has been involved with numerous community projects in Cornwall. When she is not leading a project, taking a course, writing or volunteering, Emma can be found somewhere outdoors or exploring her creativity through photography, filming and painting. Emma has recently grown an interest in the need to change our mindsets and nurture our connectivity with nature in order to successfully change our lifestyles to live more sustainably, which led her to get involved with Eco Retreats.
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