By Robert Burgess
Tower Hill Staff

Recently I had the opportunity to give forest bathing a try and decided to jump in with both feet. I was pleased to discover forest bathing didn’t require soap or a wash cloth. But I did emerge from the woods with what felt like a less cluttered mind and “cleaner” focus.

Nadine Mazzola leads a forest bathing excursion at Tower Hill.

I joined Nadine Mazzola, a Certified Forest Therapy Guide, Trainer & Mentor, with a handful of other participants for a walk along Tower Hill Botanic Garden’s Loop Trail. Nadine created a welcoming environment that encouraged us to slow down and use all our senses to appreciate a lovely summer day surrounded by nature.

Forest bathing, to me, felt like a midway point between meditation and team building. Nadine would posit thought projects – known as invitations – for us. In some cases, we’d head off on our own to seek personal answers to those prompts. In other instances we’d work with another member of the party. And over the course of an hour, we’d meet up several times to share what we’d learn about ourselves and the corner of the forest we strolled through.

Watch WGBH Channel 2’s segment on Forest Bathing at Tower Hill.

If we were to analyze the benefits to the head and the heart, I would say with certainty that any medical professional could have gauged my vital signs before and after and noticed a healthy slow down in my body’s functions. And any psychology major would be able to see the gears in my brain had down shifted into a comfortable pattern.

As I reflected on the mental and physical benefits of forest bathing, I began to understand the terminology more fully. There was no shower in the woods. But my mind felt as if it had been through a gentle cleaning, some rust removed, a few cobwebs brushed away, the stresses of that particular day put in their proper perspective.

Forest bathing on the Loop Trail at Tower Hill.

When I go to the woods on my own, I go seeking the same kind of results. But perhaps I hike briskly through to make it to my next appointment. Or I stop to check my phone to see if anyone had been trying to reach me. To slow down one’s thinking, breathing, and pace can be goals not always achieved on a solo walk. Forest bathing ensures the woods have an opportunity to really reach you. And that’s why my first forest bathing experience will definitely not be my last.

The next chance to register for Forest Bathing at Tower Hill Botanic Garden is on Friday, Oct. 6. To learn more about Nadine’s work, visit New England Nature and Forest Therapy Consulting.