March 21 International Day of Forests

by Little Wandering Wren
March 21 International Day of Forests

International Forest Day was established, by the United Nations following International Year of the Forests in 2011.

It was established ‘to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of trees and forests our lives and for those in future generations.’

Let’s join in the spirit of the day by enjoying some Forest Bathing. I’ll taking you for a wander to one of my most joyful Bangkok escapes to the country, Little Tree Garden Cafe in Nakhon Pathom. Come for a lovely lunch and let’s return to our roots.

What is Forest Bathing?
When I heard of Forest Bathing, I was intrigued. It hales from Japan where it is known as “Shinrin-yoku” which literally means forest bath… but without the water!

One of my favourite books at the moment is called Into the Forest : How trees can help you find Health and Happiness by Dr Qing Li

In this book Dr Li describes forest-bathing to means ‘bathing in the forest atmosphere or connecting with nature through all our senses’. In his native Japan he shows us where you can go to connect with the world through forests.

Across the world Forest Bathing is becoming popular. It is generally free, anyone can participate, you just need a forest or at least some trees, and it is good, clean wholesome boost for the soul!

Why I am a tree hugger!
It maybe the little Wren in me, but I have always had serious tree hugging tendencies. I just adore trees. In fact, reflecting on all my favourite homes across the years, they all had one thing in common, a garden where I could hear the little birds sing.

These gardens were special because of the trees. We had horse chestnut trees in England’s green and pleasant land. These majestic trees produced huge shiny conkers of treasure. Each autumn as a young child, I would unwrap these precious nuts, hidden in-side prickly green shells.

What’s in it for me?
Forest Bathing or ‘shinrin-yoku’ was first developed in Japan in the 1980s, following scientific studies conducted by the government. It is catching on.

Britain’s Woodland Trust suggests Forest Bathing should be among a range of non medical therapies recommended by GPs’ surgeries to boost patients’ boost well being.

In America there is an Association of Nature and Forest Therapy with Forest Therapy Guide training programmes on offer across the globe. Studies show two hours of mindful exploration in a forest could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and improve concentration and memory. Trees releases chemicals called phytoncides, which have an anti-microbial effect on human bodies, boosting the immune system.

We would play a game of conkers. A champion emerged with the strongest conker as the tree leaves turned golden and fell from the trees. Without knowing it, I had my first forest bathing experience.

In Melbourne, Australia we have elegant silver birch trees which grace the front garden of our Aussie home. These trees are a safe haven for the raucous rainbow lorikeets and ringtailed possums who take up residence in our suburban tree lined street. Here in Thailand, I work hard at feeling less removed from nature. I even have a rescue tree in a pot in my current Bangkok condo.

Readers of my Little Wandering Wren blog will remember the joy of moving this tree from my much loved (now sadly knocked down sob, sob) Embassy Place Apartment, to its current Sukhumvit home. My tree high above, on the thirtieth floor balcony makes me happy each day, and ecstatic when I was joined by a pair a nesting noisy sunbirds. Bless, their amazing endeavours building a home at such dizzy heights. That’s the power of trees for you. Seriously if you see some weird happenings on a Sukhumvit balcony, it’s just Wren hugging her skinny little Thai balcony tree!

Don’t you agree nature and trees makes us feel good?
Go on try it! A woodland wander is rejuvenating and reinvigorating. Being in nature restores our mood, it gives us energy.

‘When we are in harmony with the natural world we can begin to heal. Forest Bathing takes us home to our true selves’. ‘When we open up our senses, we begin to connect with the natural world. In doing so, our health improves when we are in nature and suffers when we are divorced from it’.

The list in Dr Qing Li’s book of possible benefits is impressive and continues to include reducing blood pressure, boosting the immune system and even helps in losing weight. I’m so there. Let’s go!

How can I experience Forest Bathing?
You can make your own forest bathing experience. Dr Qing Li suggests you are looking for a venue where you‘can smell the flowers, taste the fresh air, listen to the little birds sing, see the chang-ing colours of the trees, and feel the clammy heat of the day on our skin’.

Good news. Feeling the clammy heat of the day is never too hard to find, here in Thai-land. I generally find the little birds of the world like to sing. Fresh air? Hmmm, sadly we may have to work at finding that some days here.

Top tips for authentic Forest Bathing:
‘Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet’

  • Wander aimlessly, there is nowhere to go other than where your body wants to take you. I love this; ‘go without the thought of return’.
  • Be guided by your sense of smell and smell the fragrance of the forest.
  • Take your time. Place your hands on the trunk of a tree. What do you feel? Can you feel the tree’s strength? Do you feel its support? Do you feel grounded, connected to this earth. If not, go find another tree!
  • Walk for about 5km
  • Leave your phone at home.
  • Just try to be, the true you.

Where can I go for some forest bathing?
A forest bath is southing for the soul and accessible to all at some level. You just need to find the rhythm of nature through a forest walk. Sure you can go the whole hog, bare-footed and literally ground yourself in nature or you can connect in which ever way you want.

You can find your own space where ever you takes your fancy. It might be in your local Lumpini Park. Or how about a trip out to Pa Nai Krung, Bangkok’s Forest in the City near to Suvarnabhumi airport?

Pa Nai Krung : 8/6 Sukhaphiban 2 Rd, Bangkok
A short taxi ride from Ladkrabang Station on the Airport Rail Link.
Little Tree Garden Cafe: 43 Moo 5 Banmai, Sapran, Nakhon Pathom, 73110  www.littletreegarden.com

If you’ve not been to Little Tree Garden Cafe you’re in for a treat. It is tucked away, just over an hours drive from Bangkok. Here you’ll find a beautiful countryside setting with some lovely Thai food and drinks, and let’s give a special mention to the coffee and cake treats.

There is a bamboo grove and lots of quirky things to see including a load of crockery at Emily’s tearoom. I like it. It’s cute, it’s charming and if you’re all about the ‘gram, you’ll not be putting your camera away. Ever.

Last August I used the venue to share the concept of Forest Bathing as part of a birthday treat for two very special friends here in Thailand. Us Gals are called Hats on Adventures so we did have a giggle when we found these hats there.

In the bamboo grove, overlooking the stream we had our own version of Forest Bathing. My instructions were pretty simple. Go find a tree that speaks to you! Reach out, re ener-gise and reset your batteries for the coming year. Happy Birthday!

And the sign says ‘here’s to love and laughter and happy ever after’ which is pretty much spot on what I was hoping for and what we found.

Thank you Little Tree Cafe for a lovely lunch.

Happy International Forest Day folks!

I find my Bangkok life has me craving and seeking a connection with nature, more than compared with the other major cities I have lived around the world. If you too need to escaping the density of life in Bangkok then perhaps consider some forest bathing? It might just be a feel good walk in Lumpini Park, or perhaps a full Thai Forest bathing experience.

Who cares if you get a funny look. Although once the word gets out about this, we will all be forest bathing. Enjoy!

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