Forest Bathing, Return to Wild

Inspired by the Japanese practice of forest-bathing, Return To Wild guided hikes use the beautiful hocking hills forest as a source of meaningful sensory connection. Return to Wild hikes are specifically designed to enrich and deepen your experience in nature by cultivating the art of forest-bathing: the art of connecting with nature through our senses.

How Does It Work?

We have an innate capacity for being aware. However, for most of us, our quality of attention is like a muscle that has been long dormant. Return to Wild hikes, led by New Leaf Wellness Retreats’ Mindful Hiking Guides, offer a variety of techniques and practices that can help you nurture and strengthen your ability to live in the present moment. These guided hikes are an invitation for individuals, couples and groups to feel restored and refreshed by reconnecting with nature in the Hocking Hills.

The Science Behind Return To Wild Guided Hikes

We are increasingly an indoor species. According to the US Environmental Agency, the average American now spends 93 percent of their time indoors. Studies have also found that people in the US spend as much as ten hours a day consuming media. The problem with this? The more time we spend with technology, the more likely we are to suffer from anxiety, headaches, depression, mental fatigue, eye and neck strain, insomnia, frustration, irritability and loss of temper.

Finding ways to manage stress is more important now than ever- not just for our own health but for the health of our communities.

The Good News

Even a small amount of time in nature can have an impact on our health. Practicing mindfulness in nature with a Mindful Hiking Guide can help you sleep better, improve your mood, and boost your immune system. Here's what the research shows:

Forest-Bathing Can Help You Sleep Better

A research study had participants take two-hour walks in the morning and afternoon in different forests. Their sleep activity was measured. Before the forest-bathing trip these participants had an average sleep time of 383 minutes. On the nights after they participated in forest- bathing, it rose to 410 minutes! In other words, there was a significant increase in sleep time, proving that you sleep better when you spend time in a forest- even when you don’t significantly increase the amount of physical activity you do.

Forest-Bathing Can Improve Your Mood

It’s no secret that high levels of stress are directly linked to anger and irritability. Our modern-day lives can be exhausting. Forest- bathing researchers measured the impact forest-bathing had on mood using the Profile of Mood States. Participants were given a list of emotions and asked to rate the extent to which they were currently experiencing each one. The questionnaire was administered both before and after a forest- bathing trip and results showed reduced scores for anxiety, depression, anger and confusion.

Forest-Bathing Can Boost Your Immune System

It is well known that the immune system plays an important part in building our defenses against bacteria, viruses and tumors. It is also well known that stress inhibits immune function. If your immune system is suppressed, you are more likely to be ill; stressed people are frequently ill. Researchers took a look at the activity of natural killer cells – a type of white blood cell that can attack and kill unwanted cells with the help of anti-cancer proteins. One study found that after three days and two nights in the forest, natural killer cell numbers went up 50 percent. The same study also revealed that a forest-bathing trip once a month was enough to maintain a high level of natural killer cell activity!

Ready to Experience the Benefits of Forest-Bathing?

Book a Return to Wild hike with New Leaf Wellness Retreats’ Mindful Hiking Guides. Each guided hike includes Aromatherapy + Yogic Breathing Practices, Guided Sensory Exercises + Personal Writing Journals, and Forest Tea Tasting: Brewed From Local Plants.