Forest Bathing is the Japanese wellbeing activity that supports our physical and mental wellbeing. These invitations can also be taken in a garden. Just slow walking, focusing on our senses, keeping phones tucked away, and with no need to chat, you are in the company of trees.
Take a slow stroll in the woods, or in your garden, and simply focus on your breathing.
Find a spot to stop, lean against a tree, or take a seat, soften your gaze (like being in a daydream) or close your eyes, and focus on what you can hear, nearby or far away.
Walk slowly and see what different ‘greens’ you can find.
If it has been raining, focus on where you see water. What different places do you see the water?
If it is sunny, where do you see light and shade.
Petrochor – a pleasant, earthy smell that accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Consider smell; if it has been raining go out and take deep breaths.
Take a leaf and gently squeeze it, bring it to your nose and breathe deeply.
Taste. Before going outside (garden or woods), make a comforting drink; hot chocolate, herbal tea, decaff. tea, or coffee. Take your flask or drink and find a good place to sit for a while. Concentrate on the act of making the drink from your flask, the smell of the drink, savour the flavour and feeling on your tongue and in your mouth.
If you’re in an area where it is safe (lawns are ideal), take off your shoes and socks and consciously walk on the ground, feeling the earth under foot. Remember to breathe.
Lastly, find yourself in a place surrounded by trees, close your eyes and breathe. Open your eyes and look at the trees, walk towards one and get to know it. Maybe touch the bark, look up through its canopy, consider its life and who makes it a home. Lean on your tree for a while, breathe deeply.
There are lots of studies and research that indicates being in nature, and particularly in the woods, is beneficial to our human systems. Could being close to nature be part of your self-care?
From the start of a forest bathing session we are often looking through the eyes of the poets and the painters, until we can see with our own eyes.
I love this quote to start a session, from Robert Louis Stephenson (1904), the idea that the forest can make a ‘claim on our hearts’. That there is a ‘subtle something’, we can not put our finger quite on it, but we know we feel different after a walk in the woods. And lastly, the concept that nature and the woods, ‘renews a weary spirit’. Over the past 12 months and various lock-downs, I have delivered this virtual session, and it is clear that we are all a differing stages of weariness. Perhaps some time in the company of trees can renew the spirit.
I often introduce the research to participants, both academic and mainstream media. There is a list at the end of this blog if you want to do your own further research.
But fundamentally, the science and wider research supports the notion that being in nature and particularly woodlands, supports our immune system, reduces our stress hormones, and lowers our blood pressure. All these physical, and measurable improvements ultimately lead to us feeling more relaxed, content, able to re-focus and take the next step.
So, whether outside in the trees, or indoors and needing to connect to nature, follow these basic Forest Bathing Guidelines.
If your indoors and unable to get out, here is a beautiful recording that you can use to focus on. Choose to concentrate on sight or hearing for a comfortable amount of time for you. Sit comfortably, breathe easily, allow thoughts to come and then move them on with no judgement and come back to nature.
Nature Therapy: Relaxing Full Motion Forestry with Natural Sounds
Whether you are using the video or managing to get outdoors, here are some simple invitations to try out. Remember to find your place, be comfortable and relaxed, breathe easily and …..
At the end of this slide you can see some further suggestions to support and guide you in developing your Shinrin Yoku experiences wherever you are.
Find yourself in a quiet place, stand till or sit and take long, deep, calming breaths. Take a moment to acknowledge this time to explore your senses in this place, one at a time. If you are happy to; close your eyes or soften your gaze, like a daydream mode.
Once you feel grounded, slowly take a walk….slowly is the key…. And remember for this short time you don’t need to check your phone, even to take pictures, you don’t need to chat to anyone, you can try not to label the plants and animals you come across.
Invitations to take in the woods.
Smell – a powerful sense to stoke memories.
Take a small amount of leaf, grass, flower, earth, moss, and take it to your nose and take a deep breath. Be wholly aware of the sensations and experience of the smell. Perhaps, scrunch it up a little and breath in again, how does this change the sensations?
The smell or earth and certain moss takes me back to Guide camp, being dirty and not caring a single bit. What memory or sensation does smell evoke for you?
Sight – with us most of the time but sometimes we forget to see.
Where do you see Spring? Slowly continuing your walk and mindfully considering what looks and feels like spring. What does spring do for the woods?
The sight of Spring gives me hope each year I get to witness her, what sense do you get from Spring?
Hearing – sound is all around but what do we hear?
Maybe sit for a moment and breath easy, settle the breath and continue to relax. If you feel comfortable close your eyes or find that daydream mode again. Focus on all the sounds you can hear, with no thought of good or bad sounds, just what you can nearby and after a while what you can hear further away.
Sound makes my heart skip a beat sometimes. What do you sense?
Touch – fingers are so sensitive and are used so frequently, perhaps we need to remember to feel the touch.
Continue your slow, slow walk and consider the textures you see and choose; a leaf, twig, moss, tree, that you are drawn to. Look for a while at the shape and texture, image what it might feel like. Use the tips of your fingers to gently trace the outer edges, the inner places, of your piece, consider closing your eyes at this point to engage the sensitivity of the fingertips.
If this felt calm and grounding (and it is safe to do so) why not take your chosen piece back to your real world, to look and touch at a time when you need to be reminded about calm. If your piece was a tree, remember where it is and return to it as often as you need to.
Taste – The forest offers a glut of amazing treats, but unless you know what you are picking, best to bring your own.
Our taste buds offer a moment to pause, and be overwhelmed by the sensations. Remember savouring that special cup of tea, the square of chocolate, the juicy nectarine – when we savour our tastes we are transported to an amazing place for a short time.
Prepare your drink of choice to enjoy in the woods, herbal tea and hot chocolate work well. Have a flask, a special cup, and maybe a teapot if brewing. Find a quiet, uninterrupted spot and create a comfortable seating area. Bring yourself back to a calm stillness with your breath, as you begin the ritual of making and then savouring the sensation of the drink on your mouth, tongue, tastebuds, throat and on.
The sensation and mindful ritual of the drink creates a sense of belonging and comfort for me. What would you take and I wonder what you’ll feel.
Enjoy your time in the woods or natural space, and remember all these activities can be comfortably enjoyed in a back garden.
There are so many more ideas of what to do to gain the benefits of spending time in nature. Can’t wait to share more again soon. Make contact and let me know what you’d like to hear more about.
Using the Great Teaching Toolkit, courtesy of Rob Coe et al. (2020) as a training tool, I am set to deliver just one session for my colleagues this coming week, and it struck me that this could be basis for this blog. Teaching and coaching tools for motivation. Do I have the most motivated students all the time? No. I am however happy to share that I have many successful students, who have found their inner motivation, and some of that might be down to my approach to building relationships with them as individuals.
The research within the Great Teaching Toolkit provides an evidence based approach to all sections of the teaching process. From content knowledge and expertise, to creating the right environment, to managing the environment, finally challenging learners to ‘think hard’. There is part of me that wonders whether the ‘Dimensions’ and ‘Elements’ described might not work equally as well in a leadership and management scenario, but that is for another researcher to discuss.
I have simply reviewed Element 2.3 and created a 20 minute presentation to open discussion about how I consider using this, and ideas that others might like. 2.3 is all about motivation to support not only learning but also wellbeing and personal development. The signposts Prof. Coe and his team provide lead us to looking into Self Determination Theory and specifically research by Deci and Ryan (2008). They break the process of motivation into Controlled and Autonomous. Controlled uses the kind of reward and punish, approval and non-approval we see from traditional teaching, parenting, management styles. Focus then moves towards the Autonomous motivation, which is further broken down into Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness.
To enable me to really consider how this works in practice, I researched into some of the more practical writing that describes how we might create this autonomous motivation for our learners (and our selves alike). Reeve (2016) provides a chapter in Building Autonomous Learners, titled Autonomously Supportive Teaching: What is it, How to do it. The work offers me the language of Autonomy Supportiveness, particularly the range of comments used in lesson observations, which really highlighted the difference between to two worlds, controlling teacher, supportive teacher. A number of thoughts struck me as I created the training session:
There is no set time frame when a teacher might fall into the pattern of creating a controlling classroom. New teachers who might feel more secure in their delivery with the classroom under ‘control’, experienced teachers who have delivered their curriculum for a number of years, may forget the individuals in the room.
I had read about ‘Choice Theory’ (Glasser, 1999) in connection to forest school recently, and it resonated with the SDT stance. Considering Glasser’s ‘Quality School’ approach using Choice Theory in the classroom, consisted of meeting the following learner needs; to belong, for freedom, for power and for fun. How do we become part of a young person’s ‘ quality world’?
Some people would argue that’s not important in education, to promote internal motivation tool and young people should learn to conform – but perhaps those people are reading the wrong blog.
Here are my suggestions for creating internal motivation for learners taken from the training session.
In the classroom generally…..
Online teaching specifically ….
My own practice …..
Let me know what you think about this post and how you create internal motivation with your young people.