Forest Bathing: take time to be outside!
We talked about the importance of connecting with the character of God in nature on Sunday. If you missed it, the sermon is here. With that said, here are some helpful hints for making the most of your trip outside.
In recent years, the practice of forest bathing has gained popularity as a way to reduce stress and promote well-being. Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku in Japan, is the practice of immersing oneself in nature by spending time in a forest or other natural environment. While it may seem like a new idea, the concept of forest bathing has been around for centuries and has roots in our Christian faith.
As Christians, we believe that God created the natural world and that it reveals His character and glory. In Psalm 19:1-2, it says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” Spending time in nature can help you connect with God and appreciate His creation. Forest bathing can be a spiritual practice that helps you slow down, focus on God, and find peace and rest in Him.
So get your bible, write a verse on a piece of paper, grab a new book, listen to your favorite worship music, or simply be quiet and go outside!
Here are some steps to practice forest bathing from a Christian perspective:
Find a quiet place in nature. Look for a forest, park, or other natural space that you can visit. Try to find a place where you can be alone or with a small group of people. Take the kids or grand-kids with. Leave your phone and other distractions behind.
Slow down and be present. Take some deep breaths and quiet your mind. Focus on your surroundings and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Remind yourself, through Ps 19 or Rom 1 (see below for other verses). Look for signs of God’s handiwork in the trees, flowers, and animals around you.
Pray and meditate. As you spend time in nature, take the opportunity to pray and meditate on the goodness of God. You could also choose another characteristic such as "creator", "provider", "powerful", etc. Thank God for His creation and ask Him to speak to you through it. Meditate on His Word and listen for His still, small voice.
Engage your senses. Use your senses to fully experience the natural world around you. Touch the bark of a tree, smell the flowers, listen to the birds, and taste a wild berry (identify the things you are touching and/or eating, don't end up with poison ivy like me). Engaging your senses can help you connect with God and appreciate His creation in a deeper way.
Reflect on your experience. After you have spent time in nature, take some time to reflect. Journal about what you saw, heard, and felt. Pray. Think about how spending time in nature helped you connect with God and find peace and rest in Him.
Plan your next trip outside. Once you make being outside a part of your life, add it to your calendar and make spending time with the Lord a priority.
Forest bathing can be a powerful way to connect with God and find rest and renewal in Him. Recharge your battery and take spend time in your Father's creation.
Helpful Bible Verses:
Psalm 19:1-4 - "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."
This passage emphasizes the beauty and wonder of nature as a reflection of God's glory and creativity.
Matthew 6:28-30 - "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you?"
This passage encourages Christians to trust in God's provision and to appreciate the natural beauty of the world around them.
Genesis 1:26-28 - "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'"
This passage affirms the value of human beings as stewards of God's creation and emphasizes the importance of taking care of the natural world.
Romans 1:20 - "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."
This verse reminds us that God's presence should be obvious.
References and Sources
"The Ecological Vocation of Christian Higher Education" by Steven Bouma-Prediger, published in the Journal of Education and Christian Belief.
In this article, Bouma-Prediger argues that Christians have a responsibility to care for the environment, and that spending time outside in nature can deepen our understanding of God and our role in creation.
"A Theology of the Outdoors" by Brian K. Steffen, published in the Journal of Youth Ministry.
In this article, Steffen discusses the ways in which outdoor experiences can be used as a form of spiritual formation, drawing on the examples of Jesus' own outdoor ministry and the experiences of early Christian monks.
"God in the Garden: Christian Perspectives on Gardening" by Mary T. Stimming, published in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture.
Stimming explores the spiritual significance of gardening and spending time outdoors in a garden setting. She argues that gardening can be a form of contemplative practice that connects us to the natural world and to God's ongoing work of creation.
Non-Christian Academic Support
Li, Q., et al. (2009). "Forest bathing enhances human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins." International journal of immunopathology and pharmacology 22(4): 887-896.
Hansen, M. M., et al. (2017). "Association between green space and mental health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies." Environmental research 158: 385-393.
Bratman, G. N., et al. (2015). "Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective." Science advances 1(7): e1500792.
Tyrväinen, L., et al. (2014). "The influence of urban green environments on stress relief measures: A field experiment." Journal of environmental psychology 38: 1-9.
Song, C., et al. (2013). "Psychological benefits of walking in the forest and the physiological effects of cortisol." Japanese Journal of Hygiene 68(5): 261-271.