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Forest bathing with Kristen Mastel

Two for You — take two minutes to live and lead with intention

Episode 5.12

Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a wonderful, effective way to strengthen your well-being and help you reconnect with yourself. Listen in as Kristen Mastel, an outreach and instruction librarian at the University of Minnesota, and certified forest bathing guide, shares what forest bathing is, its benefits, and how you can take advantage of this practice.



Note: Two for You written transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before referencing content in print.

[Denise] Hello and welcome to Two for You. Today we're excited to have Kristen Mastel with us. Kristen is an instructional and outreach librarian here at the University of Minnesota and also a certified forest bathing guide.  So welcome Kristen.

[Kristen] Hi, thanks for having me.

[Denise] So, if we could start off with you ex um giving us a bit of an introduction of what forest bathing is and its connection to well-being would be great.

[Kristen] Sure, I'd be happy to. Sometimes it's almost easier to explain what forest bathing is not.

[Denise] Um, sure.

[Kristen] Folks are often used to you know going out in nature and you're going to go on a walk or a hike in the forest which is great uh but that's more kind of an exercise focus. I've had clients come and they're like oh we're going to go bathing like there's clawfoot tubs in the forest that does sound relaxing but no that's not quite it. 

So what forest bathing is it is doing a series of activities or you could almost view it as meditations and kind of nature in a forested area ideally and it's a time for you to kind of de-stress, slow down, reconnect with your surroundings, with nature, disconnect from technology, and work, and really slow down, and kind of internalize and see you know what you have to learn from the forest, and and what the forest can benefit from you as well.

[Denise] So um could you let us know is this a new phenomena, has this been around forever, and we just haven't known about it. How did it come about?

[Kristen] Yeah, so, of course, you know human nature bond is is forever old but uh the actual kind of practice of forest bathing started in the 1980s out of japan or shinrin yoku. You might also hear it referred to in the Japanese translation and in the 80s Japan was seeing a rise in workplace stress and to combat that they actually were doing research studies on how nature can help that and they found through doing these guided walks where you do kind of a series of invitations or activities folks were lowering their stress, lowering heart rate, blood pressure, lowering their cortisol or stress levels, and seeing an increase in their immune system.

So they were seeing a lot of benefits by taking the time of getting out and having purposeful slow interactions with nature.

[Denise] That's fantastic. So if we wanted to begin um taking advantage of forest bathing do you have a couple of steps that we could do um and practice.

[Kristen] Yeah, you know, of course, I'm a librarian so I'll give you one book recommendation. So Amos Clifford uh kind of wrote the book on forest bathing and brought it from Japan to the United States. So you could check out his book. And there's lots of books now um from your local library and then I would encourage you to find a sit spot or what would you call a choco. And so you know, find a spot that speaks to you close to home or maybe close to work, a place that you could visit, maybe on a weekly basis and spend you know maybe 20 minutes outside. And it's a lovely activity to just go and sit and observe nature because nature might — you know when you first sit down — animals and everything might scatter because you know you're kind of in their space now. But science kind of has shown that after about 15 minutes they realize you're not a threat and they'll kind of go about their business and so it's a lovely time to notice how the seasons change to just hone your observation skills. So finding a sit spot is a great activity.

A second one that's really easy is five four three two one. And that would be you know going outside picking out five things you could see, four things you could touch. So interacting with trees and leaves and grass feathers all sorts of things. What are three things that you can hear, two things you can smell, and maybe one thing you could taste?

[Denise] I love that! Yeah, I'm gonna have to listen to this again to make sure I get all my five four three two ones together, but I think that's a great practice. So I challenge all of you uh this week to take advantage of what Kristen has shared with us and lower your stress and the stress of those around you by engaging in some forest bathing as you live and lead with intention.

Authors: Lori Rothstein and Denise Stromme, former Extension educators

Reviewed in 2021

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