Given the amount of water lying about Lanarkshire due to the excessive rain that has battered down over the last couple of weeks, you might be mistaken in thinking that ParkBathe, our latest Get Outdoors initiative has something to do with getting wet. But no! Inspired by the concept of Shinrin Yoku - that's forest bathing in Japanese - it's less about water and more about immersing yourself in nature to lower anxiety and improve wellbeing. ParkBathe was established in 2021 as a post Covid health intervention and citizen science experiment, to see if it was possible to replicate the experience and benefits of hanging out in an ancient Japanese forest in an urban park in south London. It turns out that you not only can, but you should! We've watched the progress of the project with interest as they converted nature skeptics into people who found they really could chill out walking slowly in a park, instead of only on a hardcore run. In fact, they actually targeted people who didn't really believe it could work, and with the aid of wearable tech proved that it did. As with the original Shinrin Yoku, participants are lead on a slow and silent walk through a greenspace, and are offered invitations to connect with the nature around them using their senses. The results of the original research demonstrated the benefits and so a community led movement began. Find out more in their video here.
Following the initial pilot it has been adopted by the friends of groups in many south London parks. Now it is spreading farther afield, and thanks to some funding from Smarter Choices Smarter Places, we're thrilled to be able to bring ParkBathe to South Lanarkshire with the hope to offer it right across Lanarkshire in the near future.
A couple of weeks ago now, in the middle of another epic weather phenomenon, a group of potential ParkBathe leaders gathered in Strathclyde Park to welcome the founder, Vanessa who had traveled up from London to teach us how to take people ParkBathing. The sessions can take place in any type of weather conditions - which is just as well, and you don't need any props or equipment, apart from a handily placed tree, the older the better. At a push an interesting hedge would work instead. After a simple grounding exercise to bring us back into our bodies, we took it in turns to lead the rest of the group through various forest bathing invitations; noticing nature with our eyes, our ears, our nose and finally our touch. A magnificent old oak became our close friend and ally, located as it was next to a wee gazebo where we could take shelter from the somewhat intense rainstorms. When they finally became too much we gathered some autumnal bounty and created a mandala - a temporary creation in and of nature - for others to enjoy.
Interestingly I discovered this week that we are accidentally part of the zeitgeist! According to various articles in the papers recently, the silent walk has been reinvented; it's a wellness trend, a viral workout trend, a TikTok trend and a boost for your mental health. Social media influencers are promoting the benefits of leaving your headphones, your phone and your accompanying podcasts at home and just...going for a walk. Many of these articles do point out that although the implication is that this is a new idea, Buddhist monks have been practicing walking meditation for centuries. The irony of course is that there seem to be many videos promoting the silent walk that I presume have been made during particularly unsilent walks, perhaps to the irritation of many other people trying to take silent walks. The trick is to not replace the external monologue of a podcast with your own internal monologue, and instead really tune into the moment. Walking in nature is said to lower levels of rumination, that is those anxiety inducing thoughts that you turn over and over in your mind. I'm sure I've read that walking at the seaside is particularly effective for this and imagine it must be in part due to the soothing noise of the waves. At this time of year, especially in the breeziness of the past few days, the sounds of the leaves are very similar. Don't limit yourself to one sense though, choose whatever it is that helps you stay in the moment, search out different shapes, different colours, different smells as well as the sounds. If it feels daunting to go out for a walk on your own without those headphones, we've got your back! Join us at a ParkBathe session and let us help you find some mindfulness in nature. We now have a dozen or so trained ParkBathe ambassadors in Lanarkshire ready to lead you on walks through your local nature reserves and other green spaces. We can't wait to get started. If you're interested in joining us on a walk to find out what it is all about, then please do sign up to follow our new eventbrite page and you'll be the first to hear when the walks are starting.
ParkBathe: it's not just a walk in the park. Coming soon to a park near you!