*Written and published for Norfolk County Tourism www.norfolktourism.ca

We all know that spending time outside is good for us. Connecting with nature is a powerful way to manage stress, increase our energy level and help to find clarity.

Have you ever heard the term: “Forest Bathing” or “Shinrin-yoku”? It is a Japanese practice which means: “bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.” I have been hearing about this concept lately and wanted to experience it for myself!

Last Thursday, the beautiful fall weather in Norfolk County inspired me to get outside and explore Backus Woods in the Port Rowan area. I simply wanted to be in the forest by myself to connect with nature through my senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch.

I set the intention to be in the present moment and take time for myself to relax and de-stress.

The idea behind forest bathing is that you are not hiking to a particular destination but rather tuning into your intuition to guide you as you walk through the woods. It was a bit challenging to let go of covering a certain distance. It also felt very different to be alone in the woods.

I most often hike with my husband and my kids so the quiet time in the forest was a nice change from our usual chit chats.

I took the time to listen to the birds and the sounds of the leaves dancing in the wind. I focused on the different colors and shapes of trees and plants and took time to breath in the various aromas. In many ways this process is similar to meditation. It was a profound way to experience the local forest and I certainly enjoyed the process. I felt the tension of the busy week slide down from my neck and shoulders.

In Norfolk County, 25% of the landscape is forest covered. This provides much opportunity for that special time in nature that many crave. Backus Woods in particular is a spectacular spot to explore. You can find some of the oldest trees living in Ontario in this Carolinian forest. Backus Woods offers 7 main trails which total around 25 km in length. Consider accessing the trails on the 3rd or 4rd concessions in Port Rowan.

Spending more time in nature is scientifically linked to reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower heart rate, reduced risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and reduced risk of type II diabetes. If that is not a good enough reason to spend time outside, I don’t know that is! 🙂  I invite you to get out and spend some time outside this fall. If forest bathing interest you, get ready to open your senses and breathe in some fresh air and harvest a sense of relaxation and well-being.

Get off the couch and explore what Norfolk County has to offer. Explore the trails and spend time outdoors connecting to nature and with yourself!