Nope, we are referring to the daily (for most) ritual of taking a bath, nor that act of lying down in the sun (or in a capsule under a tanning light) with the aim of getting a few shades darker. Both of which are important and honourable nonetheless.
The activity we love and live by, is that of "Forest Bathing". It is loosely defined as taking a leisurely stroll in nature while relaxing one's mind and body, engaging one's senses and connecting with the surrounding elements of nature.
While the term was coined in early 1980s, first as "Shinrin Yoku" (森林浴) in Japanese then translated into "Forest Bathing", the practice it describes probably dates back to the start of time really.
And hence, "Bathers" is an affectionate, inner circle term for us Forest Bathers, who partake in this afore-mentioned activity.
I am born and bred in Singapore, which is a city, a country and an island all at the same time. Apart from a couple of years based in Bangkok and another in London, I've spent most of my time in this tropical place, and hence proudly calls Singapore, Home.
Neatly put across by Florence Williams in her book, The Nature Fix, in a few notable resonating (to me) lines, the relationship between my Home, Singapore and nature is as such:
"Like an insecure diva, the city wants you to notice."
"It all sounded good, but like much in Singapore, the nature love was well packaged, ready-made for brochures and airport posters."
"Singapore just represents the extreme end of constructed nature."
"In Singapore, nature more or less looked like nature, but it didn't sound like nature. It didn't act like nature."
Please don't misunderstand, the author was very complimentary about Singapore's green efforts. At the same time, she was also being frank and candid about the lack of wilderness and depth in the nature we have here. While I am incredibly proud of my nation and our feat in building a beautiful Garden City now better known as City in Nature in parallel to massive intensive infrastructural and technological development, there is a part of me which can see where these stark statements stem from.
Its this idiosyncrasy of Singapore's "constructed nature", which part-inspires, part-challenges me to proclaim that we will be forest bathing right here in our backyard within this very setting.
Yes the odds may not be in our favour. But let me pave the way and show you how it can be done, and guide you through that very journey.
Your Forest Bathing Guide
Hello, my name is Kate. I am the founder of The Backyard Bathers, and I am your resident Forest Bathing (Shinrin Yoku) guide.
I am neither a Zen master, nor an artist. I am neither a psychotherapist, nor an ecologist. I am a city dweller accustomed to being in an urban setting on a day-to-day basis, plugged into technology and being charged up most times of the day, zooming in and out of heavy human and road traffic, popping in and out of high-rise apartments, skyscrapers and underground malls. Just one who secretly possesses a biophilia trait, is a closet daydreamer and feels hidden joy from creating things with my hands.
Before I started taking long lone nature walks, discovered the practice of forest bathing and founded The Backyard Bathers all in the fateful year of 2020, I was unhappy, unhealthy (physically, mentally and emotionally) and unfulfilled. It felt like I was constantly overwhelmed by the intensity and pressures of society and city life, yet putting up a controlled front while leading an underwhelming existence.
Which is why I “get” my clients (affectionately known as my "bathers"), appreciate their perspectives and can relate to them. By listening to their stories and respecting their paces, I personalise each mindful walk, forest bathing session and my guiding approach accordingly, to offer an authentic experience for each one of them to connect with nature and with themselves.
Walk by walk, “bath” by “bath”, client by client, I aspire to bring happiness and holistic wellness to others like myself. With time, I hope to build a forest bathing community here in the backyard of my home, Singapore, the City in Nature.
The "Why" -- Benefits of Forest Bathing
"Keep a green tree in your heart, and perhaps the singing bird will come."
— Chinese Proverb
Strengthen immune system with higher natural killer cell activity and anti-cancer protein production
Improve energy level and reduce fatigue
Enhance sleep and promote generation of "sleep hormones" melatonin
Improve visual health by relaxing and restoring eyesight
Aid and accelerate post-surgery recovery
Suppress sympathetic nervous system and lower "fight-or-flight" response activity
Enhance parasympathetic nervous system and encourage "rest-and-recover" balance activity
Improve concentration and memory
Boost problem-solving ability and cognitive
Reduce risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease
Improve cardiovascular health with lower blood pressure, slower heart rate and higher heart-rate variability
Enhance mood, lift depression and promote generation of "happiness hormones"
Alleviate feelings of anxiety and reduce levels of "stress hormones" cortisol and adrenaline
Mitigate aggression and sudden mood swings
Instill sense of calmness and serenity
Rejuvenate to achieve balance and well-being
Develop connectedness with nature and oneself
Enhance creativity and provide inspiration
Strengthen clarity and enhance intuition
"I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees."
— Henry David Thoreau
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
“How happy I am to be able to walk among the shrubs, the trees, the woods, the grass and the rocks!
For the woods, the trees and the rocks give man the resonance he needs.”
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
— John Muir