Awash in the Woods

Oregon’s Adventure Coast is the place to dive into forest bathing.

Sponsored Content Presented by Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston

Forest bathing is the practice of taking in the forest through all of the senses. Think of a slow stroll through an ancient coastal forest. Yoga on a quiet, scenic stretch of the Oregon Coast. A mindfulness meander to a cascading waterfall deep in the woods. These are all forms of forest bathing.

But forest bathing is more than just soaking up the outside world; it’s also about interacting with your natural surroundings and absorbing the scientifically proven benefits of spending quiet time in nature.

“We know how we feel when we go to the forest, once we get past the cold and wet part of it,” said Daniel Houghtaling, cofounder of Mossy Lotus and Mossy Yoga, a yoga and forest bathing practice in the Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston area. “Trees make people happy. And there’s a lot of different science that backs that up.”

The Science Behind Forest Bathing

The concept of forest bathing originated in the 1980s in Japan, where it’s known as shinrin-yoku. According to Harvard Medical School, tech and industrial workers in Japan were showing an increase in stress-related illnesses, which triggered leaders to create nature trails to entice people outside. Workers quickly saw the benefits, which included reduced stress, improved attention spans, boosted immune systems and overall better moods.

In the ensuing decades, scientific research has actually shown that forest bathing can be healthy. Tests have shown that a calm walk in the woods reduces levels of cortisol, a hormone that can play a role in causing a variety of illnesses, better than a walk through a lab.

Another study conducted in Japan showed that people who spent a few days in a forest had an increase in the number and activity of certain virus and cancer-fighting immune cells. People who spent the same amount of time in an urban setting didn’t enjoy the same kinds of benefits.

Trees also emit natural oils that have been proven to enhance the immune system, lower blood pressure, ward off depression, and help combat anxiety. Think of them as great green aromatherapists.

“Going into a forest is basically like eating a handful of antidepressants,” Houghtaling said.

The Importance of Location

Though its name is tied to the trees, forest bathing doesn’t necessarily have to happen in an arboreal setting. Woods are good, of course, for peaceful walks and reflective strolls. But the benefits of forest bathing can also be found on wild stretches of coastline, near scenic cliffs and overlooks, among rolling sand dunes, and next to purling rivers and shimmering lakes. Indeed, anytime the soothing sounds of water are present, the calming effects rise.

And that’s what makes Oregon’s Adventure Coast such a prime destination for forest bathing. Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston are home to a plethora of outdoor getaways ideal for connecting with nature and yourself.

There are endless hiking options, like the old-growth hike to Golden Falls or a stroll along the Oregon Coast Trail from Sunset Bay to Cape Arago. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America, and the cliffs at Shore Acres State Park make for a serene stroll.

You can set out on your own forest bathing experience or go with the pros. Houghtaling, a wildlife biologist who spent years tracking spotted owls in ancient Oregon forests, and Mossy Yoga offer guided forest bathing excursions, including a forest hike to two tumbling waterfalls. Overnight options are available as well, as are mindfulness and yoga trips throughout Sunset Bay State Park near Charleston.

What’s more, a forest bathing experience can start before you even get there: the scenic drive from Portland takes you out of the chaos of the city and into nature through the Willamette Valley and coastal mountains to Oregon’s Adventure Coast.

To get the most out of forest bathing, Houghtaling said it’s important to slow down. Ditch the digital devices and take time to notice the little things around you: Smell the flowers, look closely at a pine cone, find a secluded place to just sit or take a nap, and breathe deeply.

“Just be in the forest,” he said, “and let the forest kind of be in you.”

Oregon’s Adventure Coast is an ideal destination not only for forest bathing, but for other avenues toward mindfulness and better health. That includes yoga studios, spas, massage therapy and farm-to-table restaurants, all of which are immersed in the natural beauty – trees, beaches, dunes, cliffs and the ocean – of Oregon’s Adventure Coast.

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