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Forest bathing in Spring

I know that we've been encouraging you to celebrate the coming of Spring, several times over the last couple of months, but this weekend marks the final harbinger, with the Vernal Equinox, occurring at precisely 9.37am on Saturday 20th March marking the start of astronomical Spring. Equinox is the time that day and night are approximately the same length, and I can bring you the joyous news, that as I sat down to write this on 18th March, I had just been alerted to the fact that today, with all its glorious sunshine, is the first day (in Glasgow anyway) where the sunrise is more than twelve hours before sunset. This festival is known as a time of balance with the equal hours of darkness and light. It's a good time to think about balance in your own life as well as in nature, if you want a simple way to bring some balance into your life why not check out our ocean breath video here. It'll help restore your calm and your concentration. This is the time of year when nature comes alive, the catkins are already on display and some blossom is opening. To find out more about the things you can look out for and celebrate at this time of year, keep an eye on our social media this weekend as we bring you a new video to celebrate the equinox.

This week we were lucky enough to have Caitlin from Forest Therapy Scotland along for a session to introduce people to the idea of forest bathing. Firstly it's important to note that it's not necessary to have trees to be able to do a bit of forest bathing, any kind of natural surroundings will do. It originated in Japan, in Japanese it's known as Shinrin-Yoku and it was introduced as a way of reconnecting Japanese city dwellers with nature. Caitlin was quick to point out that no actual bathing is involved, no swimsuit is required, and as such it is accessible to most people, whatever your fitness level. Rather it is about bathing your senses in the natural surroundings of a forest (or other greenspace). It has a lot of similarities to mindfulness, as the key aims are around slowing down and using your senses to connect with nature. There are plenty of benefits to forest bathing - for your mental and physical health but also for the environment, as fostering a connection with nature encourages us to take care of our greenspaces and the environment. Caitlin hopes to be running forest bathing sessions outdoors again soon, so do check out her website.

If you're not able to get out and visit a forest or take part in a session with a guide, then Caitlin suggested developing a sit spot practice in your garden, or even by a window that has a view of nature. Ideally this would be a spot that you could visit regularly and sit for between 10 and 20 minutes, just quietly watching. Perhaps you could scan through your senses, what can you see around you, can you hear the sounds of birds, the wind rustling the branches, can you smell the earth, or the flowers, is there a taste to the wind, what can you feel, the ground beneath you or the sunshine on your face.

Which brings me to the picture above. Where I live, I share a garden with our neighbours and over the last year, people have been getting out more often and being more proactive with looking after the space. This is a wee seat that has been created in a quiet nook in the garden, and I have decided that now the mornings are lighter, I am going to endeavour to get outside a bit often, and just sit. I did it for the first time late this afternoon, the crescent moon was already high up and faint in the blue sky, the wind was rustling the newly planted bamboo and for the first time this year I could feel the sunshine on my face. Everything was quiet when I first sat down, and then from nowhere the birds emerged, a blackbird first, then a busy group of long-tailed tits, and finally some very noisy crows. I had to tear myself away to come back inside to log onto a Paths for All session about Walking with Nature; it was totally worth it though. They're currently running a campaign encouraging people to connect with nature and the theme for the final week coming up is connecting with nature wherever you are. Check out their walking info hub for more about the campaign and lots of information about walking, including an article on forest bathing, but also lots of ideas about how to do some micro volunteering when you're out and about to help your neighbourhood and the world.

Now put down the computer or phone and get outside into the sunshine while it lasts!

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