Forest Bathing: Bringing shinrin-yoku to British Columbia

Dappled spots of sunlight on the leaves, the sound of faraway birds calling, the smell of moss and thick, moist earth – when you’re deep in the forest, every sense is tantalized. It’s a very different feeling than when you’re cooped up indoors, stuck in an hours-long meeting, or gritting your teeth in rush-hour traffic; most of the time, we don’t even notice the sights, smells, or feelings that surround us.

There’s nothing quite like the calm, introspective feeling we get when surrounded by nature. Writers and poets have tried – and many come close – but the exact words still elude us. In Japan, they call this phenomenon shinrin-yoku. In English, it translates to “forest bathing.” It may sound like a word from a pseudo-science journal, but it’s a legitimate form of nature therapy that’s taking over British Columbia – and the rest of the world.

If you’re new to forest bathing, here’s what it is, why it’s beneficial, and why Victoria, British Columbia is the best place to give it a try.

What is Forest Bathing?

We don’t mean literal bathing, but in a way that’s exactly what it is. Forest bathing is a form of nature therapy in which you immerse yourself in the calming ambiance of the forest and absorb the world around you through all of your senses. In other words, you’re bathing your body and mind in the forest wilderness. It’s a romantic concept, and one that’s helping people around the globe reconnect with nature and escape the anxiety of a busy world.

It sounds like hiking, but it’s actually much different. Forest bathing has a bit more intention than a hike, and it’s done at a much slower pace. It’s probably the opposite of cardio – the point is to move slowly through the environment as you touch, smell, see, and hear the world around you. You’re not aiming for a particular destination, but focusing solely on the details of the place you’re at right now. Running your fingers over gritty tree moss, marveling at the splash of color inside a wild forest flower – these are common stops on a forest bathing tour, and they each help you observe and appreciate your surroundings and yourself like never before.

By nature, forest bathing can be done solo; you just need a stretch of dense forest and an hour or two to spend inside it. But it has also become a popular group activity, and guided forest bathing tours are on the rise around the globe. Your guides aren’t therapists, but they can help you stay intentional and point out details that you may miss alone. It’s a great activity for vacationers, who can take advantage of their worry-free trip to explore the outdoors and seek internal satisfaction. Plus, it’s a great way to explore the wilderness of a new landscape – and it’s one that you can take with you when you go.

What Are the Benefits of Forest Bathing?

If you’re asking why forest bathing is so popular, you’re not alone – the average person spends 90% of their lives indoors. But the mental and physical benefits of spending time outdoors can’t be ignored, and forest bathing takes that to a whole new level. By being intentional with your time, you reap bigger benefits and create a deeper connection to nature than if you just stood outside. In fact, the benefits of forest bathing include helping you de-stress, encouraging creativity, and improving concentration. Plus, it’s really, really pretty.

But it’s not just mental health. Spending time outdoors boosts your vitamin D, combats obesity, and speeds up recovery. You may not get all of those benefits from just one session, but forest bathing can instill a love for the outdoors that keeps you moving outside and makes you healthier in the long run.

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Forest Bathing in British Columbia

When it comes to forest bathing any forest will do, but Victoria’s landscape was made for it. From lush rainforests to wild miles of dense firs, the area boasts plenty of forest terrain that’s packed full of sights, smells, and wildlife that are sure to leave you breathless (and stress-free!). Plus, everything you need to take a spiritual forest bath is within easy reach of the city! Add all of that into a temperate climate that’s made for exploring, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a rejuvenating nature experience. Goldstream Provincial Park and Cathedral Grove are both popular spots for wilderness walking.

But it gets better! Not only do we have the forests, but thanks to its riding popularity we also have plenty of forest bathing guides. As the concept has caught on, companies throughout the area have started offering forest therapy tours and guided forest bathing for visitors and locals. In fact, Haida Bolton is British Columbia’s first certified forest therapy guide, and she conducts tours right here in Victoria through her company, Nature with Haida.

Whether you want a quick solo session or a fully guided tour, Victoria is a must-see destination for forest bathing. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t love a chance to calm their mind while exploring a centuries-old rainforest?

Here’s the best part: our Victoria vacation rentals put you right near the forest for easy access to your forest bathing future. Some of them even offer stunning forest views to keep you in that relaxed mindset long after you’ve left the trees (but they still have everything you need to stay clean and comfy). Book yours today!