What is Forest Bathing?

Sonia Thompson

At Splinter Creek, we talk a lot about our three lakes, trails, and 650 acres available for residents' recreation. Yes, you can paddle board, canoe, hike, fish, swim, and garden. And we're proud to offer those activities.

But we also offer something that is often overlooked in communities like ours – outdoor space for the simple pleasure of being outside.

“Taking time just to observe a tree, noticing the leaves, noticing the bark, touching the bark," Brooke Mellen of Cultured Forest says. "It all sounds very intuitive, but people don’t take time when they’re in nature to really stop and connect. It’s about more than just some activity that you’re doing outdoors."

Cultured Forest celebrates shinrin-yoku, a Japanese mindfulness practice in the outdoors that translates to “forest bathing” or taking in the forest atmosphere (photo courtesy Brooke Mellen).

Mellen's brainchild and startup, Cultured Forest, is dedicated to that very idea. A true connection with nature is the reason she founded the business and what she aims to help her clients achieve.

She does this through an activity known as forest bathing, which, despite the funny-sounding name, is simply a way of taking time to pay attention and be appreciative of the natural world.

Brooke Mellen, the founder of Cultured Forest (photo courtesy Brooke Mellen).

"The main thing I’m really trying to create is an experience in mindfulness," Mellen says. "Mindfulness is really being in the moment, being present, and training your mind to not focus so much on the past or the future but to be present."

Even though Mellen is based in New York City, she is currently offering virtual sessions, and also shared some easy ways to practice forest bathing at Splinter Creek or anywhere outdoors.

The trees at Splinter Creek are ready to breathe with you (photo by Elizabeth Keckler).

Mellen's Forest Bathing Tips

1. Get Grounded
"Start off with a short meditation, some breathing exercises," Mellen says. "I have clients try something called yoga nidra, where are you just noticing your body. Starting with the feet, all the way to the top of the head, just notice that. Then notice your senses. What are you smelling, what are you hearing? Start getting out of your mind and into your surroundings."

2. Breathe With a Tree
"Breathing with a tree is where you find a tree and you think about how, with your out-breath, you are creating carbon dioxide, which the tree needs to survive," Mellen says. "And the tree then produces oxygen, which we need to survive. We have this symbiotic relationship. I tell people to find a tree and take 10 deep breaths while thinking about that exchange of air."

3. Try Transferring
"If you’re out hiking by water, find a rock," Mellen says. "Pick up that rock and think of something that’s kind of weighing on you or stressing you out. Then imagine giving that to the rock. Throw the rock in the water as a way of letting go of something that is hard for you to hold at the moment."

When you live at Splinter Creek, nature is truly at your doorstep (photo by Elizabeth Keckler).

Overall, Mellen says don't overthink it. Just get outside and revel in the world around you.

"When I hike with friends, we’re talking about everything in life, and that’s great, but we forget to talk about this beautiful tree, flower or whatever we see in front of us," Mellen says. "I try to train friends to notice, 'it’s not about just getting to the waterfall, it’s about the journey,' which is kind of life, too. We forget to enjoy the journey."

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