Forest Bathing: How to use nature to find peace, better health

Let me bring you songs from the wood
To make you feel much better than you could know
Dust you down from tip to toe
Show you how the garden grows

Ian Anderson

Gardens can be the perfect starting point

Finding peace in the forest or woodland is nothing new. For centuries, people have sought the quiet solitude of these places to escape the stress of urban life.

Tapping into and recognizing the true healing power of the forest, woodlands and natural areas, however, is a fairly recent endeavour.

“It was the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries that established the practice of “shinrin-yoku” (literally translated to “forest bathing”) in the 1980s, as a response to a rising health crisis in their country,” explains Fru Molnar, a Certified Forest Therapy Guide (

Fru Molnar a certified Forest Bathing guide

Fru Molnar, a certified Forest Bathing guide from New York state.


She explains that: “Spending time in nature has been an accessible way to co-regulate the human nervous system for as long as we’ve been on this planet. And, with the evolution of humans, our consciousnesses, and our technologies, we have also developed multifaceted practices to connect with the natural world in order to heal ourselves.”

In the United States, Canada and Europe, the Covid pandemic helped turn woodlands and natural areas – including our gardens – into places of refuge where we could escape the stress and worries associated with big cities, crowded streets and the constant fear of contracting the disease.

Forest bathing for many, whether we realized it or not, became a lifesaver.

“In recent years, I would posit that forest bathing has been gaining traction throughout the pandemic in particular not only because it’s a tangible stress reliever, but also because it was one of the only activities that many folks could still enjoy during peak lockdown times, at least in the United States,” explains Fru, from her home in Peekskill, New York, a town on the Hudson River about an hour north of Manhattan

When you’re truly engaged with your senses in the present moment in nature, that’s forest bathing to me.
— Fru Molnar

“Even in the height of the pandemic, people were able to discover that being outdoors in fresh air with plenty of distance between each other can be an avenue for self-care, play, socializing or community care, and recreation. It’s no coincidence, either, that forest bathing has been proven to boost the immune system – so the health and wellness benefits are obvious draws.”

Fru, a certified forest bathing guide, with her husband Evan exploring the mountains.

Forest bathing actually played a key role in helping Fru and her husband, Evan, find a more satisfying life away from the stress of the big city life.

Evan, a creative designer and digital artist created beautiful images to promote Fru’s Forest Bathing business. For my complete story on Evan’s outstanding work go here.

The couple escaped the big city life in Manhattan by taking a leap to a more rural area of New York state to create Fru’s dream of a more natural lifestyle as a Forest Bathing guide.

“Yes, absolutely. New York City will always have a huge piece of my heart, but I needed balance,” she explains.

“I learned that the concrete jungle isn’t always the most healthful environment for a sensitive person who longs to feel synced to the movements and energies of the natural world; I realized I needed to be living somewhere where I could actually touch the earth with my bare feet on a daily basis, where I could look out my windows and see more trees than buildings, where I could plant a garden and grow flowers for my friends, where I could hike up a mountain after work instead of hiking up endless subway steps.

This experience was amazing. It took me days to speed back up again, and I don’t think I will ever feel like I have to move so fast again!
— Forest bathing client

For a few years, the couple combined the fast pace of Manhattan during the week with a slower pace of nature on weekends they hiked in the Hudson Valley.

Eventually, everything fell in place to “re-root here in Peekskill” she explains.

Peekskill is the basecamp for her forest therapy guide company.

To get to this stage she needed to become a certified forest therapy guide which she did via the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs.

The program consists of a six-month online intensive training, followed by a four-day in-person immersion training, Fru explains. She also holds a certification in Wilderness First Aid Basics – an important addition in case of an emergency in the field.


Opening the door to nature

“Additionally, I’ve spent over a decade walking the trails and intimately getting to know the natural landscapes of the Lower Hudson Valley area as an avid hiking, camping, and outdoor adventure enthusiast,” Fru explains.

She is quick to point out that she – and others in her profession – are not therapists, but guides.

“In this practice, we allow the therapeutic work to be done by the natural setting itself. We hold the container for this unique relationship to form between each participant and the forest. A favorite motto among forest therapy guides is: “The forest is the therapist. The guide opens the doors.”

How to discover nature through the senses

“What forest bathing means to me is to be present in nature (any nature, it doesn’t actually have to be a literal forest). It’s really as simple as that. Coming into the present itself can be done through a variety of methods, and I find the most accessible is through the senses,” explains Fru.

“Nature offers such a gorgeously rich tapestry of sensory delights that make it almost impossible not to be present when touching the delicate petal of a flower, or listening to the birds singing, or watching water in a stream.

“When you’re truly engaged with your senses in the present moment in nature, that’s forest bathing to me.”

“That doesn’t mean you’re not having thoughts, of course, but the idea behind the practice is that it’s a restorative one – one where we get to step out of our minds a little bit, and step into our bodies, relax into nature, and enjoy the moment without expectations, without trying to “achieve” anything, just being open to receiving the gifts of Mother Earth. Try it – you might be surprised at how profound things can get when you start looking more closely at the mushrooms, or start actually listening to the trees."

“I had such a good time yesterday that I went out into the woods again later that day, just to do some writing on paper and be with the trees.”
— Forest bather client

What are the benefits to forest bathing?

There are so many physical, mental, and emotional benefits to the practice of forest bathing, some of which can be felt immediately, while others have more subtle effects.”

Three decades of scientific studies in Japan show the vast array of benefits that can be derived from spending mindful, structured time in nature, explains Fru.

These benefits range from the purely physical – boosting immunity, lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, and lowered blood pressure, to the emotional and mental – enhanced mental clarity and cognition, increased access to certain types of creativity, improved mood, increased sense of vitality, and relief for chronic depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions.

“It’s truly incredible the breadth of ways in which simply being in the atmosphere of the forest can have a profound effect on us humans, both physiologically and psychologically,” says Fru, adding that “anyone who has spent a few hours in the woods knows how much better you feel afterward.”

Readers who are interested in diving deeper into the science behind any of these benefits, can find links to many of the studies on Fru’s website here.

I had a pretty profound experience where I met my higher self and she told me that I’m worthy of love- it was a beautiful goddess version of me.
— Forest bathing client

What to expect during a forest bathing session

If you have never experienced an organized forest bathing session, you might be surprised.

It is not necessarily travelling deep into a forest and meditating for hours until the perfect Zen state is achieved. Of course, that can be part of an experience but most experiences are simpler and more accessible. For some, it could involve a slow movement through a natural area, for others, it may just involve sitting in a quiet place.

“This practice can be done while in motion, too – nature itself is always in motion, after all. So it’s not necessary to be seated or meditating while enjoying nature, but I do encourage slowness during movement. We want to let our bodies really feel relaxed and held, and for some this might mean moving around, and for others it may mean laying on the earth and watching the clouds float by. It’s all medicine.”

What’s a typical forest bathing session?

Fru explains: “Sessions range from 2-3 hours depending on the size of the group. We don’t walk the entire time, and there are usually several opportunities to take seated breaks along the way. Typically we cover no more than 1 mile in total distance. 

“We gather at our meeting spot and I give a brief introduction. Then, I guide us in some gentle mindfulness practices to awaken our senses and ground us in the present moment.

“From there, we slowly wander and get to know our forest or natural setting. Along the way, I offer a few invitations designed to further connect us with our surroundings as we explore. I always build in chances for you to connect with the forest on your own terms, in your own authentic way. All elements of the session are completely optional and offered as invitations only.

“There are also opportunities to gather in a group and share with others. I really prefer guiding groups for this reason – when we share with others, and even more importantly, when we listen to and witness others’ experiences, our own experiences become all the more enriched for it. Someone sharing a story about a moment they had with a turtle might awaken something deep within another participant, or might prompt someone else to seek out their own kindred creature.”

You don’t have to be out in the deep forest to practise Forest bathing. Pick a chair in your own garden and work to become one with nature. Fru will even work with far-away gardeners over zoom through their smartphones.

Can we practise forest bathing in our own natural garden?

The benefits of forest bathing can be achieved as much in your backyard as they can in the deepest forest. Afterall, it is as much a presence of mind as it is a physical place.

Our woodland gardens just might be the ideal place for us to experience the joys and peace forest bathing offers.

“Gardening is a perfect gateway to forest bathing! Caring for plants in a reciprocal relationship is a core value of forest therapy guides and gardeners alike,” explains Fru.

I was surprised how much better I felt after and how deeply positively it affected me.
— Forest bathing client

 She offers a simple technique: “I’d like to share a very simple but truly profound forest bathing invitation that gardeners can do every single day in their own backyards. It’s called “sit spot,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like — find a place in your garden where you can sit (or lie down) very comfortably for at least 15-20 minutes. 

“Then, do just that — sit. And be. Allow yourself to do nothing. See what happens as you observe the world around you unfold. Notice with all of your senses. Cultivate patience. 

Fru recommends people who have a peaceful garden to do this exercise every single day in the same spot, if possible. “It’s truly magical to notice how the landscape changes, and how it stays the same — and how we change and stay the same right alongside it.”

The good news is that Fru is available to hep guide gardeners either in person if you live nearby, virtually using a smart phone or through a zoom call.

Gardeners who would like to contact Fru can do so easily through email at her website at ([email protected]), or by filling out the booking form on her website.

Walk was extremely calming and relaxing. I felt very supported to allow the invitations to flow easily, without judgment or control. Heart rate decreased, breathing felt more nourishing, filled with gratitude post-walk. Felt more connected with myself, my environment, and the walk group.
— Forest bathing client

Exploring a virtual forest bathing experience

Even if you don’t live anywhere near the Lower Hudson Valley (NY), Fru is available to guide virtually.

“On virtually-guided walks, you get to choose the location, and I’ll guide from my own location. So we won’t be physically present with each other, but we will be doing the practice simultaneously on our phones,” Fru explains. “These 1.5-hour journeys are a low-key, accessible way to get many of the benefits of an in-person forest therapy experience from your own backyard or favorite outdoor spot. All you need is a device with Wifi or cell connection, headphones, and someplace green that calls out to you. Wherever you participate from, the guided session includes sensory invitations and optional group sharing opportunities, and we’ll finish with a virtual tea circle!”

Exploring the virtual experience is just another way natural, woodland gardeners can explore the benefits of their hard work and become more aware and connected to their garden.

Gardeners who would like to contact Fru can do so easily through email at her website at ([email protected]), or by filling out the booking form on her website. You can visit her website at

Lastly, if readers want to find other ANFT-certified forest bathing guides near them, check out this comprehensive list of more than 500 certified forest bathers in the following directory and search by city or state or country, including forest bathers in Canada, the U.K. etc.

•A quick search in my area turned up Forestbathingwithbeth which is operated in Barrie just outside Toronto, Ont., Canada.

• For those in the west, or those readers looking for the ultimate Forest bathing experience in the Cdn. Rocky Mountains, contact Ronna at Forest Fix who operates in the Canmore/Banff area.

Vic MacBournie

Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and shares his photography with readers.

Why leave ornamental grasses standing through winter?


Olympus camera system in the garden, the woodlands and on vacation