Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Forest Bathing

A burst of morning sunshine through a forest of trees in fall.

Hello fellow readers, Once again, I begin our chat dictating while walking in the sights and sounds of nature. As I reflect on a pet loss ceremony we attended on Sunday, a monarch butterfly joins us, flying a bit ahead bringing a smile as the event was a butterfly release ceremony. But this story is not about that story really; it’s about Forest Bathing, a topic not new to me, though the label is, thanks to Anita of Blairstown, NJ, who sent an article on the subject.

a swath of ferns in a woodland with a man forest bathing in the distance

A Ground Cover Layer of ferns amongst nature

 Forest Bathing is not about hiking or exercise. 

Many know it feels good to walk in nature, especially among trees older than us, representing remarkable resilience.

Forest Bathing or Forest Therapy is not about exercise or hiking. It’s about Being in the woods observing the sights, sounds, smells, touch, and tastes surrounding you. Of course, don’t taste things unless you know for sure they are not poisonous. Then there are other senses, a sense of well-being and belonging.

Evidence proves that feelings and physical statistics such as blood pressure and pulse rates improve after spending time in nature. As Dr. Qing Li, a scientist and author of Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, writes, “The sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air — these things give us a sense of comfort. They ease our stress and worry, help us to relax, and to think more clearly.”

Forest Bathing, or Forest Therapy, provides a sense of well-being.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, on average, Americans spend 93 percent of their time indoors or in cars, leaving only 7 percent to being outdoors.

The extensive scientific research Dr. Li shares prove the benefits of forest bathing. In a nutshell, it feels good to walk in the woods. I’ve known this since being a kid.

a golden retriever in a forest during the fall

My beloved Miss Ellie Mae forest bathing :^)

I’d have to ask permission to ride my bike around the block in Exton, PA, where we lived. But the actual destination was a dead-end street with trails. I’d ditch my bike and walk into the shadowy forest,  moist and cooled by a nearby stream with rich soil soft on my feet. It felt comforting.

Each time I’d go a bit further…

Each time I’d go a bit further until I came upon a heap of rusty cars reminding me of a graveyard, like the one behind us when we lived in Baldwinsville, NY. Mom well trained the Stone five-pack not to step on the gravesites out of respect.

After several trips, I dared to walk beyond the graveyard, though I ran like the wind while passing the car wrecks. I remember the thrill and the sense of accomplishment after overcoming the fear of moving on.

Research proves Forest Bathing helps loneliness. 

While reading the forest bathing research, I learned it also helps loneliness; the first I’ve considered that benefit, though I experienced it all my life, which may seem ironic. After all, I grew up with four siblings and an intact set of parents—a family of seven grew to eight when Grandpa lived with us his last years. Still, I felt a deep loneliness. Walking in the woods helped.

a woman in a blue short opening a lid of a screened box of monarch butterflies

The Pet Memorial Ceremony hosted by Joseph T. Quinlan Bereavement Center and Abby Glenn

Don’t get me wrong, our care and feeding were well taken care of, primarily by Mom, but there was an emotional distance between them and us. Maybe because Dad didn’t have a dad growing up, and Mom’s Mom died days after she was born, so neither grew up with role models. But they (we) do the best we can with what we have to work with. And I am grateful for the family in which I grew up.

About the special Pet Memorial Celebration 

Back to Sunday’s event —It was an honor to sing along with Ken Roberts at the butterfly release ceremony hosted by Joseph T. Quinlan Bereavement Center and Abby Glenn, a cemetery for our beloved pets. And heartwarming to see the turnout, hear the names, and view the memorial wall of photos, including Miss Ellie Mae. And so, today, it seems fitting to adopt the new picture for our column header—the one most favored by all of you who kindly responded to my birthday reflection.

Suppose I conclude with one last benefit of forest bathing, my addition. The feelings of adventure and courage walking beyond unknowns and fears and letting go of what once was, though never forgetting or forsaking the love.

Garden Dilemmas? (and on your favorite Podcast App).

This story is featured in Episode 34 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast. (Click the green arrow below or on your favorite Podcast App.)

Related columns you may enjoy – Wisdom from Mettler’s Woods  and Talking to Trees on Arbor Day


a metal grid with pictures of pets that passed away clipped on with clothes pins

Miss Ellie Mae’s love remains forever in our hearts, a love now also filled, but not replaced, with Jolee.

a blond woman in a black t-shirt sitting with a black and white dog

Jolee and Me, after a walk, is the new column photo.

photo of the Garden Dilemmas Column in The Press newspaper.

As seen in The Free Weekly Press

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. Judy Pedersen Reply

    Wonderful information. Thanks very much, Mary.

    • Mary Stone Reply

      Thank you for reading Judy. And for your kind words.

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