Shinrin Yoku: Forest Bathing Explained By Katriina Kilpi

Katriina and I crossed paths through my blog, and she quietly stayed in the corner of my Facebook chat, until one day, fate led us to talking. I found out that Katriina is a Forest Bathing Guide. Sounds fancy? I know! Now, I’m going to dive straight into our conversation and let you learn from the source.

Note that this discussion is the outcome of an hour-long Zoom call with Katriina, so I’m putting together her resources in a series of posts. And all the images used in this article are contributed by Katriina herself, from her wondrous musings in the the beautiful forests of Finland.

So Katriina, what is forest bathing, how do you see it?

Forest Bathing is a concept that originated in Japan, and was called Shinrin Yoku.

The Japanese saw people getting really stressed and they knew intuitively that being in nature is really good for you. They love going out into nature, and even their religion, shinto, has animistic qualities.

Forest bathing could be likened to sunbathing  – everyone has their own preferences and ways of doing it but the idea and goal is the same. The practice came into culmination in the 80’s. Someone picked it up in the west about five years ago, and it became really popular. Nature became very “trendy”.

forest bathing, nature, forest therapy, self care,
And what I think is pretty interesting is that elsewhere as well, people started creating similar approaches, combining nature and mindfulness.

A case in point, my friends Ian Bayard from the UK with Natural Mindfulness, Sirpa Arvonen from Finland with Forest Mind and Nitin Das with Healing Forest from India. And of course, Amos Clifford from The USA with Forest Therapy.

I’m not sure what channels all these people were listening to but around 2014 things started popping up. And I too was getting laid off in 2015 and felt like I finally needed to get started with my passion.

The time had come for me to get back to nature. I just didn’t yet know how exactly I was going to get started. So I did a bit of everything: Forest Mind, Skogsmulle, nature guide certifications. And then some.

The conversations that I’ve had with the Japanese people (commoners and researchers) leads me to the conclusion that it all comes down to using your senses to experience the forest.

In the last 3 years many books have been written. As one of the great resources to educate yourselves on the subject, you can also explore Dr Qing Lee’s work, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health & Happiness.

So, as a beginning point, understand that it’s done for the goal of relaxation, and in the west its become more pronounced about nature connection as it has got mixed with ecotherapy.  

Forest bathing allows you to see the miraculous beauty in the small. It’s another mechanism of forest bathing where it works like mini-meditation. You’re being very mindful when you pause everything and try what a leaf feels like, or the tree bark.

forest therapy, forest healing, nature, katriina kilpi, finland forests

The Japanese concept is quite broad, which really speaks to me. My intuition says that when you try to limit it and say it has to be done in a certain way, you lose authenticity and intuition. You lose something that comes from the heart of the people.

Some people bring their druidry into forest bathing. Some incorporate flower essence in their work. And some use this work as relational ecotherapy, for healing. The core remains in connecting with the forest.

You’re lucky to experience forests in such an organic way! Many of us are surrounded by a concrete jungle. Then how can we “work with the small” when living in a crowded metropolis?

There’s something there, there’s something in it, which is why small pockets are planted. They know it works, they just don’t realize why.

I once gave a lecture to a landscaping firm based in New York City, they wanted to bring forest bathing to small spaces. It’s about facilitating the opportunity to immerse yourself in the forest atmosphere.

To create the feeling you are in it, experiencing it with all your senses. You need to be able to interact with your surroundings. There are even virtual applications that attempt to do the same, and these can be used in hospitals and in other institutionalized settings. 

In these “made up” forest bathing spaces, you will do well if you manage to attract life there through the use of flowering plants.  The variation of structures, heights of plants, and colours will stimulate you and you might want to look closer.

forest therapy, forest bathing,
Something you can smell, something you can see, something you can touch, something you can interact. Probably biodiversity is one of the secret ingredients. There is indication that people prefer biodiverse surroundings for restoration.

Belgium talks about food forests, it helps you stimulate taste buds to experience nature through shrubs, berries, apple-picking and so on.

I would LOVE to be a part of a food forest trail! But it makes me wonder, are there any ethics for forest bathing? We don’t really want to leave an imprint, do we.

Yes, think from a person’s point of view, and the forest’s point of view.

If you go with a group, they are typically group events, you have to draw the line, how many people can go because you leave a trace.

You should be able to sit alone and get off the ‘track’. You’re in the vicinity of a guide but you should have an alone experience. But as you do that, you leave a trace, so you want to be mindful. 

And think of the seasons. In spring, a lot of species are nesting, so some sections should be avoided, keep it quiet.

I always tell this to people, don’t take anything that’s growing. Treat yourself as a visitor. Even if you see a lose item, like a pine cone or a stone hat you would like to take along, ask yourself if you really need to take it with you.

It is part of the lifecycle of the forest and the forest has its use for it. Of course, a souvenir now and then that helps you to remember the experience you had, is perfectly okay. This is something Vasundhra uses for Art Therapy too.

That makes sense. And is forest bathing for everyone? Are there groups that are not benefitted?

Mindfulness may not be a good fit for everyone. Here’s a conversation that Vasundhra and Clayton did on the subject, of what that means.

Or if you’re guiding groups who might not be that used to the forest, I might ease them into it.  Whenever you are dealing with groups with special needs, you should be mindful about your own skills as a guide.

Although you can never fully prepare for everything, the guide needs to take their responsibility and know what kind of groups they are able to guide.  Being trauma-informed would be an asset.

When we go in nature, what is made loose in us is surprising. Natural environment is always a powerful partner. Due to my limited skills, I focus on health promotion and relaxation, but you want to gauge how deep you want to take the group.
shrubs, bushes, food forest, forest baths

For people that have trauma connected specifically to the forest, you have to be the most mindful. But they’re probably not the first ones to sign up.

And in your advertisement, you should be clear on what you’re doing, what to expect, etc, and that YOU ARE NOT a therapist (unless you actually are a licensed therapist). 

Especially during this pandemic, mental health problems are skyrocketing so you need to be prepared for more anxiety and related challenges. Though forest bathing has been shown to alleviate mental health problems, as a guide, it’s important to communicate clearly  that this is not a therapy session, unless you have the clinical background for that.

Thank you, that’s an informative way to approach any healing modality, really. My next question is, can you do this without a guide?

Yes! You can’t do it wrong. I like to say, if there’s a place you’re familiar with, that’s the best place to go. For self care, you should go to a forest or natural place you’re comfortable in. There’s no surprises there and that automatically drops off the nervous element so that you’re able to just be there with the pure experience.

When you’re there, you can go through the all the senses and interact with the forest through your eyes, ears, smell and so on. Concentrate on each sense for as long as you feel called to, and see what comes up for you.

People might have one strong dominating sense. For me its my sense of smell, and that leads me in forest walks. Of course all senses work in unison, but some people might be more lead by one sense than others.

Also, some days when I feel like I need to ground myself, I tend to want to touch things a lot. Or go lie down on the ground. So it depends on your mood and state as well from day to day. You might discover where you get most memories and reactions in the forest. 

You can even try forest bathing in your backyard or in a park.

Katriina shares tons of educated insights in her book, which you can learn immensely from and use for your own forest bathing experience.

Curious to try out Forest Bathing for yourself? Here’s a beautiful example.

Katriina put together this video just for us! You can see her passion through and through her sharings on this blog and the video. Do drop her a comment in the section below and give her some love 🙂

To be continued….

Like I said, this conversation is extracted from an hour-long discussion on forest bathing. So it seemed like a good idea to create a series of articles, touching on different aspects of forest bathing.

I am leaving you with these resources for now, but just know that in the upcoming discussion, we’re taking things even deeper! She’ll be unpacking questions like getting lost on a forest walk, learning about forest therapy, rekindling the lost art of Japan, her forest bathing story, and much more. Stay tuned 🙂

to be continued sigange

Katriina Kilpi
Katriina Kilpi

Katriina is a Forest Bathing Guide, originally from Finland living in Belgium, who is deeply passionate about nature connection. She continues to inspire countless individuals through all her environmental-related projects, keeps looking for ways for the world to get back to Mother Nature.

The Chemistry of Pleasure : Fuel Your Life With Nitric Oxide, by Lisa

What is the chemical proof that pleasure is good for you? What are some subconscious blocks preventing you from experiencing pleasure? And more!

“Pleasure. It feels kind of selfish, right?”, she asked me.

Yes, it does! To the point that it can make most of us blush or look disappointed at the person talking about it.

Lisa Welsh is a self-love expert and she makes some powerful, bold and revolutionary revelations around sexuality through her work.

Very recently, I had spoken about pleasure as a key component of healing your Sacral Chakra energy. So, it’s perfect that she could go into the chemistry and psyche of pleasure through this amazing post. Here’s what she has to say.

Can Pleasure FUEL Your Life?

We don’t make time for pleasure.

Of course, there’s always something more important that you need to do. Like grocery shopping. Or the dishes. Or making sure that little Meg has her dancing shoes packed for tonight.

Vintage, Victorian, Old Fashioned, Chores, Labour, Hard work, Pleasure, Laundry

So, you hear yourself urging your loved ones to go and have fun, while you catch up with the bills, the cleaning, and the organising. 

But what if I could tell you that pleasure is actually a powerful fuel for life, without which you are missing out on something vital. I’m talking about a tiny molecule created by your body, called nitric oxide.

Is there a scientific backing for pleasure?

This powerful little neurotransmitter, nitric oxide works in many wonderful ways to help you feel good.

  • Stimulates the release of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin (feel-good hormones)
  • Relaxes your blood vessel walls
  • Increases the flow of oxygen to your heart, brain, and other organs
  • Reduces cell inflammation

In simple terms, nitric oxide energises your cells – making them happy, healthy, and vital! 

Really, how pleasing is the pleasure chemical, nitric oxide?

It’s such an impressive molecule that it has even been harnessed by the medical world:

  • To help to strengthen premature babies’ lungs 
  • In Viagra to help boost erections
  • In heart attack medications to open blood vessels
Red Blood Cells, Microbiology, Biology, Chemistry, Nitric Oxide

Pleasure Versus The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy

Let’s take a minute (or two) to talk about the shame or shyness behind pleasure within the female community.

It’s mostly unconscious, but if you’re like most women, you feel more comfortable with self-sacrifice. You don’t give yourself permission to dive headfirst into pleasure because it feels indulgent, a waste of precious time, and far from essential.

The truth is, you’re not to blame. After all, you’ve been taught that women are either:⁣

GOOD⁣

  • Chaste⁣
  • Pure⁣
  • Sweet ⁣
  • Excellent mother and wife material⁣
  • Attractive (but not sexy)⁣
  • A wholesome girl next door⁣

or BAD⁣

  • Sexy⁣
  • Seductive⁣
  • Promiscuous⁣
  • Exciting⁣
  • Desirable (but not marriage material)⁣
  • A dangerous femme fatale

This Madonna-Whore dichotomy is not only false, it’s also incredibly harmful. And it has existed for years and works beautifully to keep us small, keep us slut-shaming our sisters and to keep us from stepping into our full power as women.⁣

Woman, Bullying, Stress, Finger, Suggest, Shame, Guilt, Blame

The Good Girl/Bad Girl mentality is a programme working silently in the background of our minds, insidiously controlling our thoughts, emotions and behaviour. It reinforces gender inequality, objectifies women, and restricts our sexuality.⁣

In action it sounds like this…⁣

  • A sexy woman is not a good mother⁣
  • I should hide my true desires, so my husband doesn’t think I’m dirty⁣
  • She’s a whore if she sleeps with him on the first night⁣, or before getting married
  • “One good girl is worth a thousand bitches.” (Thanks for that one Kanye.)⁣

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to choose one or the other.⁣

  • You are not one dimensional.⁣
  • You can not be limited to just a good girl or a bad girl.⁣
  • Your worth is not defined by what you choose to do or not do with your body. ⁣
  • And neither is your ability as a mother.⁣

The world desperately needs to see you stand up and own your true, full expression. ⁣

Which is why, today, I want you to understand why you need pleasure, and why your body needs nitric oxide.

How is nitric oxide linked to everyday life?

Whether you are a woman or man, it is hopefully beginning to make sense to you, why pleasure isn’t a sin. But all this while, you’ve been depriving yourself of this life-fueling feeling, through unconscious actions.

Would you like to know how to get your hands on this magical molecule?

Well, nitric oxide production is produced by your body as a reaction to PLEASURE! And unsurprisingly, nitric oxide levels are depleted by shame, stress, anger, fear, and grief. 

selective focus photography of woman surrounded by people in the street, anxiety, stress, pleasure

So, let’s paint a picture of you, going about your normal life, rushing, overwhelmed, perhaps a little anxious. Would you dream of taking a step away from your busy-work to inject some pleasure into your day?

Not usually. But, maybe now you know the power of nitric oxide to boost your creativity, health, happiness, and mood, which, in turn, allows you to show up in the world, your family and relationships as a more radiant, energetic version of you…that won’t sound so far-fetched.

How can you boost nitric oxide production?

To begin with, releasing the energetic trauma from your body, through the Sacral Chakra region is important to fuel the pleasure zone. This can be done in two ways.

Breathing & shaking.⁣

First, watch this quick and incredible video clip of deep breathing in live-action, below.

The entire abdominal & pelvic cavity is moving with each inhale & exhale. The diaphragm is massaging the internal organs & can improve those things we have been chatting about; uterine, ovarian, pelvic floor, bowel & bladder function.

Impressive, huh? ⁣

Now let’s get on to the shaking, but don’t take my word for it.⁣

Neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky’s book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and Trauma Therapist Peter Levine’s book, Waking the Tiger share a key theme. Let me break it down.⁣

Animals, such as zebras, live in fear of death…all day long. Popping to the water hole, munching some grass & just hanging out with the other zebras is incredibly risky.⁣

It’s likely that they’ll be chased by a hungry lion at any moment. ⁣

Hartmann'S, Zebra, Hartmann'S Zebra

So, why are zebras not walking around with PTSD despite all of these brushes with danger? Because they know how to dissipate stress!⁣

How? As soon as they are safe, they discharge the energy by shivering, shaking, twitching & leaping. And then, they carry on being a zebra. ⁣

Your nervous system works the same way, except you have a big clever brain that gets in the way. ⁣

So, just take some deep breaths & shake it off. Do it every day for a few minutes.⁣

There are no rules. You can shake out your hands, arms, butt, whole body. You can even get on your hands and knees & wiggle around. Just go with it!⁣

No judgement about what you look like & no need to understand what you’re releasing. ⁣

NOTE : This tool is not designed to replace therapy or pain relief. Sometimes deep breathing can trigger a traumatic response, so go slowly.

You can also boost nitric oxide production and enjoy all of its delicious side effects in other simple ways. 

  • Laughter (especially belly laughs)
  • Orgasm
  • Meditation
  • Enjoyable exercise
  • Big hugs
  • Warm baths
  • Ocean swims
  • Playing with your dog
  • Things that light YOU up!

You already know how great it feels to spend time in nature, with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. And you’re familiar with the tingly vitality that follows enjoyable experiences. But you didn’t know the chemistry that was making it happen. 

Girl, Portrait, Woman, Young, Face, Skin, Pleasure, Happiness, Self-care

Of course, it sounds so simple that you might be tempted to overlook the power of using pleasure as a fuel for life. But I urge you to actively seek ways to bring 1% more pleasure to your day today, and again tomorrow.

Concluding Thoughts on Pleasure

Try to be mindful of all of the times that you refuse to please yourself. It probably happens more often than you think. Be aware of any subconscious internal limit to pleasure. Decide that you have permission to fully enjoy self-pleasure when it comes along and notice how you feel. 

Please don’t take my word for it! Would you commit to bringing more pleasure into your life for 30 days? Journal the experience so you can see how it works for you.

Lisa

Lisa Welsh
Lisa Welsh

Lisa Welsh is here to help you feel good and have fun, in your body and in the bedroom. Her mission is to help women heal and awaken their sexuality, so that they can live full, creative and juicy lives. 

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The Chemistry of Pleasure : Fuel Your Life with Nitric Oxide