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Benefits of ‘forest bathing’ explored by mental health collective

‘Forest bathing’ is a term that might bring up images of a bath-tub full of leaves or swimming in a river. You might be glad to hear it’s neither. A local mental health group are exploring the benefits of ‘forest bathing’.

It is the act of guided walks through woodlands, bringing attention to often overlooked senses and feelings that people may have trapped in their subconscious. Feelings that may otherwise be ignored.

Mindful Walks, a group based in Cardiff is exploring the practice. In doing so it is looking to improve the mental wellbeing, relaxation, and appreciation for nature felt by people in South Wales. They have been conducting guided walks for a year and a half, primarily through Fforest Fawr.

Speaking to alt.Cardiff, founder, and organiser Tommy Carr told us about the multitude of health benefits of the walk, not just for your mental but physical health also. 

“The primary purpose of the walk is relaxation; it’s meant to be enjoyable and to leave people feeling better not just immediately but for some time afterward.

“It’s also important to me that members start to slow down and pay attention to the world around them.”

Tommy points to scientific proof from Japan that forest air exposes people to “Phytoncydes”, a substance emitted by plants and trees. Research shows this increases the production of “natural killer cells” in the body – leading to a positive psychological effect from forest bathing.

The walks, however, are not only to improve mental health.

“I hope that people will gain a greater respect for the natural environment.

“Participants tend to express a sense of awe and wonder that I think is conducive to wanting to protect the natural environment.”

All are welcome, so long as they are physically capable of completing a two-hour walk through forest terrain. Tommy also offers concessionary rates to students or the unwaged too in order to try and make it as accessible as possible.

The next walk is scheduled for 17 November, and more information can be found at mindfullwalks.uk, or on the group’s Instagram page, @mindful_walks.

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