Forest Bathing University of Toronto Guide
CONTENTS What is forest bathing? The guide The basics What to bring Location Safety The practice Breathe Hear Smell Feel See Taste Closing the practice Supplementary information Campus map Notes References
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Forest Bathing: University of Toronto Guide Written and created by Jenna Cardoso for Forest Bathing for Students: Current Barriers and Future Opportunities.
This guide is intended for student use on the University of Toronto St. George campus.
WHAT IS FOREST BATHING?
I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least ... sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. HENRY DAVID THOREAU
Located in the heart of Toronto, the University of Toronto St. George campus is home to more than 60,000 students.1 The school’s academic programs are considered world-renowned, with professors of high academic achievement and top student success rates. Despite the university’s prestigious status, the students commonly refer to it as “U of Tears” due to its highly competitive atmosphere and heavy workload. In 2013, over 50% of Ontario university students experienced feelings of stress and anxiety.2 Because urbanization is often associated with increased anxiety and mood disorders, the downtown location of U of T doesn’t help.3 In response to the high levels of stress and anxiety, the University of Toronto released a 2014 Report on Student Mental Health. The report contained various recommendations to mitigate student
mental illness, including a call for an inclusive curriculum and pedagogy.4 This involves facilitating a holistic, integrated university environment that promotes the exchange of ideas and supports student well-being. One way to address this is to encourage forest bathing on campus. Forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) is a term coined in 1982 to describe an ancient Japanese practice.6 At its core, forest bathing is a form of nature-therapy that involves using all five senses to engage with nature. Forest bathing is rooted in the biophilia hypothesis that humans have a subconscious urge to connect with the natural world.6 By directly interacting with nature through our various sensory pathways, forest bathing encourages our biophilia. Recent research suggests that forest bathing has many positive psychological and physiological effects, including re08
duced stress and anxiety, increased immune functioning, and improved overall happiness.7 Along with these human health benefits, forest bathing may also have environmental benefits. Studies have found that people who spend time in nature are more willing to protect it.8 As a result, Iâ€™ve created this field guide for you: the urban student. I hope it will help you find your place in the urban ecosystem.
THE GUIDE Use this compact field guide as a tool to develop and improve your forest bathing practice. Keep in mind that forest bathing with a certified guide is encouraged to help you to feel more comfortable, but it may not be economically sustainable in the long-term. Also, the effects of forest bathing will occur whether your forest bathing on your own or with a certified guide. Catered to students, this guide has been created to be user-friendly and informative in the urban field. Its small size makes it easy to toss in your backpack and bring with you wherever you go. Pull it out on your walk to class. Think of it as your study-break buddy. Donâ€™t use it lightly or put it on a shelf and forget about it. Itâ€™s not that kind of book. Dogear the pages, mark it up, place it on the ground, in the dirt, on the grass, and in the sun. Use it often, and use it daily.
THE BASICS WHAT TO BRING, LOCATION, SAFETY
Check the weather before you go out so that you can dress appropriately. You will not be doing a lot of walking, and the movement you do will not be enough to break a sweat. If it is cold, you will want to layer up. Remember that you can always take layers off if you get too warm. If it is hot, dress lightly and apply sunscreen or wear a hat. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water and a snack. One essential rule of forest bathing is to put away your phone. The key to forest bathing is to be in the present moment. It is time to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. Try setting your phone to airplane mode or turning it off altogether. If you’re a photographer, this might be difficult for you, but remember that photos can be taken after your forest bathing experience. 12
Your forest bathing location is anywhere there are trees. Choose a place close to home that you go to often. Find a green space on campus. Do you walk through a park on your morning commute to class? That’s your spot. If you’re having trouble deciding on a location, flip to the back of this guide for suggestions of green spaces at the University of Toronto. Your forest bathing practice can be as short or as long as you want. The great thing about having your own guide is that you can cater it to your individual needs and schedule. If you only have 5 minutes before class, then make it short and sweet. If you have 20 minutes or an hour, try staying a bit longer. As a University of Toronto student, it is unlikely you will encounter poisonous plants in the city. That being said, it is good to be aware of the common poisonous plants in your area just in case you 13
come in contact with them. Some common ones in Toronto include poison ivy, poison oak, and stinging nettle. Again, you probably will not see any of this on campus, but it is good to be aware and better to be safe than sorry!
THE PRACTICE BREATHE
Find a spot to sit, stand, or lie and stay for as long as you want. If you are walking, walk slowly and lightly. Keep in mind that this is not a replacement for your high-intensity cardio workout. Try not to be disappointed if you do not get far. In the wise words of Dr. Qing Li, “it doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere for you are not going anywhere.”9 After you find your spot, pause and take some slow, deep breaths inhaling air through your nose to fill up your abdomen and exhaling to release. With each exhale, imagine all of the tension in your body is melting away. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms both the body and the mind.10 The breath grounds and connects us. In Sanskrit, breath translates to “prana,” which is the life force that connects all of the elements.11 As you
focus on the breath, you may notice that all other distractions in the mind begin to fade. Now try this: breathe in through the nose for a count of four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds, and exhale through the mouth for eight seconds. Without having to do anything but breathe, you are increasing your connection to the world around you. Continue breathing, and if you feel comfortable, close your eyes for a few minutes allowing your eyes to rest and your other senses to heighten. When you are ready, open your eyes and let your senses guide you through the practice.
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. THICH NHAT HANH
ENGAGE YOUR SENSES HEAR
Close your eyes and begin to notice the sounds around you. Focus on whatever sounds come up. Is it windy? Listen as the whistling wind flows through the leaves on the trees, and with each breath of wind, allow your worries to be swept away. If you stay long enough, you might hear bird songs or squirrels scurrying along the tree trunks. Notice if the bird songs differ in tone or pattern. If it is winter, you may hear the trees cracking and popping. In the city, you will inevitably hear traffic in the background. Instead of blocking it out, focus on the hum of the city. Listen to the subtle sounds around you. Stay still as you revel in the symphony of the urban forest.
ENGAGE YOUR SENSES SMELL
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.
Inhale the fresh oxygen emitted by the trees above and beside you. If there are wildflowers nearby, take note of their scent. Do all the flowers smell the same? Reach down and dig your hand into the soil and notice how it smells. Take a deep, full-belly inhale and find pleasure in the scent of the urban forest floor. If thereâ€™s a twig nearby, scratch it with your fingernail and inhale the woodyscent. Find a pine needle, break it in half, and inhale the immune-boosting essential oils. The urban forest is emitting scents all around you.
JOHN BURROUGHS 23
ENGAGE YOUR SENSES FEEL
Notice the parts of your body that are in contact with the Earth and imagine roots shooting out from them, connecting you deep beneath the surface to the infinite networks of tree and fungi below you. Reach out and touch a blade of grass, a stone, the soil, a pinecone. Observe all of the different textures around you. What do the tree trunks feel like? Some may be smooth, and others will be coarse and deeply grooved. Notice the temperature of the air on your nostrils as you inhale and exhale. When was the last time you walked barefoot on the Earth? In the city, we primarily walk on pavement. Take your shoes off and touch the ground with your bare feet. Feel the Earthâ€™s electrons as they flow from the ground up into your body.
ENGAGE YOUR SENSES SEE
When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. ALDO LEOPOLD
We rely heavily on our eyes almost every moment of the day. However, sometimes we are so focused on work or socializing that the world around us goes unnoticed. Begin by noticing the different shapes and colors around you. Witness the squirrels looking for nuts or climbing the trees jumping from branch to branch. Watch a butterfly flutter past you as you take note of its color and pattern. If there are clouds out, try observing their different sizes and shapes. Are there any leaves nearby? Pick one up and examine its veins, try comparing it to the veins on your hand. There are patterns all around you. Try to find them.
ENGAGE YOUR SENSES TASTE
Although this book is not a guide to foraging and you should not taste anything if you donâ€™t know what it is, there are still ways of engaging this fifth sense in the city. Try opening your mouth and tasting the air. If it is raining or snowing, stick your tongue out and try to catch a raindrop or a snowflake. What does it taste like?
CLOSING THE PRACTICE When youâ€™re ready to end your forest bathing journey take a moment to return to your breath, inhaling and exhaling through your nose. With each breath, allow your body to soak up the final moments in this space. Take comfort in knowing that the forest will be here for you next time you decide to forest bathe. Feel gratitude to the Earth for supporting and sustaining you today and give thanks to yourself for taking time out of your busy schedule to engage in this act of self-care.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFO CAMPUS MAP
The forest bathing sites highlighted in the map are some of the many green spaces on campus. The red points refer to some of the larger green spaces on campus. Victoria College is the place to go if you’re looking for a secluded green space or a babbling waterfall. Queen’s Park is the largest green 32
space on campus with a variety of trees and constant squirrel activity. Philosopher’s Walk is a quiet space to watch the birds or go off the beaten path and find solitude under the trees. The UC Quad is the perfect place to lay in the grass between class and observe the diverse ancient trees. The blue points on the map refer to indoor green spaces at the university. The Bamboo Garden, located in the Terrence Donnelly Centre, is a flourishing indoor garden home to a variety of plants and animals. The Living Wall is found in the Multi-Faith center, and at 2.5 meters tall and 7 meters wide, this wall hosts a variety of plants and mosses.
REFERENCES 1. University of Toronto. (2018). “Quick Facts”. Retrieved from https://www.utoronto.ca/about-u-of-t/quick-facts 2. American College Health Association (2013). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Canadian Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2013. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association. 3. Peen, J., Schoevers, R.A., Beekman, A.T., & Dekker, J. (2010). The current status of urban-rural differences in psychiatric disorders. Acta Psychiatr Scand,121: 84-93. 4. University of Toronto Student Mental Health Strategy and Framework (2014). Report on the provostial advisory committee on student mental health. 5. Li, Q. (2018). Forest bathing: How trees can help you find health and happiness. New York, NY: Viking. 36
6. Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 7. Li, Q. (2018). Forest bathing: How trees can help you find health and happiness. New York, NY: Viking. 8. Mayer, F.S., & McPherson Frantz, C. (2004). The connectedness to nature scale: A measure of individuals’ feeling in community with nature. J Env Psych. 24, 503-515. 9. Li, Q. (2018). Forest bathing: How trees can help you find health and happiness. New York, NY: Viking. 10. Bordoni, B., Purgol, S., Bizzarri, A., Modica, M., & Morabito, B. (2018). The influence of breathing on the central nervous system. Cureus, 10(6), e2724. doi:10.7759/ cureus.2724 11. Swami Satyananda Saraswati. (September, 1981). Prana: the universal life force. Yoga Magazine. Retrieved from http://www. yogamag.net/archives/1982/emay82/prana582.shtml 37
Biophilia: bio (=life) philia (=love) the human has a love of life.
A guide to forest bathing for students at the University of Toronto.