Forest bathing may sound a little strange, but this Japanese health concept is proven to be good for wellbeing.
It’s more than simply taking a walk in the woods, it’s about taking the time to reconnect with nature, becoming aware of our surroundings, acknowledging the changing seasons and just taking some time to relax.
The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku, a way of using all the senses to reconnect with nature. Studies show that being amongst trees can lower stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure as well as improving the function of the immune system. This makes sense, since – on an evolutionary scale – our urbanised lifestyles are a very recent development, separating us from our natural surroundings.
Take the time to admire the shape and colour of a fallen leaf, the aroma of a pine forest, the complex spiral of a larch cone, the texture of silver birch bark, or just stand still and listen to birds singing and small animals rustling in the undergrowth, or a rushing stream. Simply spotting a red squirrel or hearing a cuckoo can make you feel happy all day.
Aberdeenshire is blessed with some excellent woods and forests. Many of the local National Trust for Scotland properties have forested estates with free entry and marked trails, though for a sense of solitude, you’ll need to find your own route to avoid dog walkers and cyclists.
Forestry Scotland publishes a leaflet of forest walks in Aberdeenshire available for download at https://forestryandland.gov.scot/images/pdf/rec_pdfs/ForestsaroundAberdeen Guide.pdf. Try Kirkhill Forest where you can discover the ruins of old croft cottages or climb up to Tappie Tower for a view over the landscape. Tyrebagger offers an outdoor sculpture trail, while summer in Cambus O’May offers a glimpse of iridescent jewelled dragonflies and damselflies that feel almost magical.
Make time for forest bathing.