With the advent of technology, most of us spend considerable time indoors, staring at computer monitors, TV screens, our smartphones, and tablets. This tech phenomenon was recognized early on by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, which began promoting the practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, as far back as 1982.
The objective of shinrin-yoku, translated means literally, “absorbing the forest atmosphere,” was to encourage Japanese citizens to take dedicated time away from technology, immerse themselves in the serenity of nature, and live in the moment by becoming aware of the sights, sounds, and smells a natural setting provides.
The health benefits of spending time in nature has been proven time and again. This increase in wellbeing includes:
- Decreased blood pressure and heart rate
- Lower quantities of harmful hormones such as cortisol, which floods our bloodstream during stressful situations
- Increased sense of internal calm
- Promotes relaxation
This decades-old practice of forest bathing has finally made it to the Silicon Valley. And, though we are surrounded by numerous beautiful forests, any location that offers a tranquil setting will do. Lakes, beaches, trails, and parks are all places where we can slow down and allow nature to work its magic.
There are numerous places in Silicon Valley and beyond where you can absorb the forest atmosphere. Some of our favorites in Saratoga, Los Gatos, Palo Alto, and Santa Cruz are listed below.
- The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
- Hakone Gardens
- Sanborn County Park
- Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve
- Fremont Older Open Space Preserve
- Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve
- Castle Rock State Park
- Almaden Quicksilver County Park
- Los Gatos Creek Trail
- St. Joseph’s Hill Preserve
- Stanford Dish Loop Trail
- Baylands Trails
- Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
- Wilder Ranch State Park
- Santa Cruz Beaches
The list really is endless and so are your forest bathing options.
If you’re new to this practice, know that it is not designed to be a chore. It is all about taking time away from the modern trappings of civilization and, as the name suggests, bathing your senses in nature. Your forest bathing experience can be as little as 15 minutes or as long as you desire.
- Turn off your phone. Or, if possible, leave it behind so you’re not tempted to answer a text or check your email.
- Depending on how you feel, you can sit and observe or take a leisurely walk
- Slow down. Take deep breaths. Smell the fresh air, the scent of flowers, grasses, and trees.
- Look around. Observe the light, textures, and colors.
- Listen to the silence, the sounds of birds, insects, the rustle of falling leaves.
Above, all take your time. Soak in the peaceful surroundings. Bathe yourself in nature.