take a walk in the forest

Craig DeSilva
November 08, 2018
health

Lauwa‘e Cazimero has been dealing with feelings of loss, guilt, and regret ever since the death of her husband, Hawaii entertainer Roland Cazimero.

A friend suggested she try forest bathing, a practice that promotes the physical and mental health benefits of connecting with nature. “I didn’t know what to expect and went in with an open mind,” says Cazimero. “It felt like I was in a canoe taking a journey on the ocean. It was healing for me.”

Forest bathing helped Lauwa‘e Cazimero deal with the loss of her husband. (Photo: John Zak)

Cazimero and about a dozen other participants went on the three-hour guided walk one Saturday morning at Lyon Arboretum in Manoa among lush green trees and chirping birds. They participated in several exercises, called “invitations,” that included closing their eyes and using their sense of hearing, smell, and touch to connect with their surroundings. Participants discussed their experience and ended the walk with a tea ceremony.

“I walked away feeling more connected to my husband,” Cazimero says. “The experience helped me better realize and appreciate his love for nature and understand him more. I could feel his presence there.”

Scientific evidence shows that forest bathing can be a pathway to better health and well-being.

There are many reasons why people take part in forest bathing, says Phyllis Look, owner of Forest Bathing Hawaii. Whether it’s to get over the loss of a loved one, increase mindfulness, be more in tune with nature, or simply take a break from a fast-paced world, she says forest bathing can benefit the body and mind.

“So many people are tied to their cell phones and schedules,” says Look, Hawaii’s only certified forest therapy guide. “Having time to slow down and do nothing is something people these days often don’t experience.”  

Forest bathing guide Phyllis Look conducts a tea ceremony at the end of the walk. 

Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is the Japanese practice of “bathing” or immersing yourself in nature. It’s supported by scientific studies that show how nature can help boost immunity, reduce blood pressure and stress, improve mood and sleep, clear the mind, and improve one’s focus.

“It’s going back to the three Rs—rest, recuperation, and reflection,” says Look.

Another participant, Molly Mamaril, says forest bathing gave her a rare opportunity of self- reflection. “I’m so plugged into screen time throughout the day,” she says. “Forest bathing allowed me time to be more mindful, something that I can practice in my daily life.”

Forest bathing enabled Molly Mamaril to practice better mindfulness. 

Mamaril says forest bathing is different from her weekend hikes with friends. “Our hikes are more about exercise and reaching the destination. Forest bathing is more of a journey inward to reflect on what’s happening in the moment.”

Learn more about forest bathing in Hawaii at forestbathinghi.com.

Photos courtesy of Phyllis Look.

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