It’s January, which means the spell of winter has been cast down upon us in full force. The frozen ground glistens with a blanket of white snow, the sky…well we haven’t seen much of it these past few weeks. Which is why winter forest bathing should be priority uno on your to-do list. 

You can relax. You will not be physically bathing in the cold. Think of it as more of a bath for the mind. A way to gift yourself a calmer demeanor and spiritual cleansing. 

  • Dress in warm layers

    Winter forest bathing; photo courtesy Paul Gerow

    Winter forest bathing; photo courtesy Paul Gerow

  • Wear good boots
  • Hat, scarf, gloves/mittens

Find your happy place. When we think of the perfect setting for winter forest bathing, 2 places come to mind. Norway Ridge and Rockport State Recreation Area. Finding your happy place will only be a short drive away, wherever you chose, due to Alpena’s ample forest space. (click here for more options

Take in your stride. As you walk down the trail or through the forest of your choosing, become of aware of your stride. Listen to your steps. Hear the crunching of snow and frozen twigs beneath your boots. That’s the sound of you connecting with the earth beneath you. Give yourself permission to tune into it completely. 

Pick a spot. Find a clearing in the woods where you can stand or sit to collect your thoughts. This is the perfect time for meditation, thinking, or just watching and listening to the world around you. You’ll notice that winter forest bathing is quite different from summer forest bathing. The forest is much quieter in the winter. An occasional snow fall from a high tree limb, the small sound of a squirrel running up a nearby tree, perhaps a gentle wind blowing through the naked branches. 

Norway Ridge forest bathing; photo courtesy Laura Wolosiewicz

Norway Ridge forest bathing; photo courtesy Laura Wolosiewicz

Bathe. This is where you do what feels right for you. Do you feel like making a snow angel? Do it. Feel like drawing shapes and squiggly lines in the snow with a tree branch? By all means. Want to do absolutely nothing but look at the sky above, letting the snowflakes fall gently on your face? Feel free. Anything goes in forest bathing, as long as it is with the purpose of freeing your mind from the constraints of everyday life. 

Breathe. Deep inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Take in the smells and sounds one more time. Place your gloved hand to your chest, feel your breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Tune in to the way you feel in the this moment. Do you feel lighter?

Congratulations, you just participated in winter forest bathing in our Sanctuary of the Great Lakes!

Your body has now boosted the number of natural killer cells in your body, increasing your immune response to foreign invaders and disease. Your blood pressure is now lower, your stress and anxiety levels have been reduced, and you’ve increased your focus. (Source)

Featured image at the top by Amy Lijewski