Urban Forest Bathing
After the shelter-in-place order first went into effect, it was encouraged to get outside and walk as long as people kept social distancing measures of more than 6 feet. Since everything else was closed, huge crowds flooded local trails in search of an escape. Many land management agencies couldn’t handle the influx or maintain social distancing guidelines, especially on narrow trails. Local trails began closing, while city and county parks were forced to close parking lots and vehicle traffic to reduce overcrowding. While some city parks remain open, the only permitted activities in the parks are walking, jogging, and bicycling. Picnicking, sunbathing, and other gatherings in the parks are not allowed.
People are now recommended to hike and walk in their neighborhoods—which can be frustrating, depending on where you live. Many of us are accustomed to exploring our favorite trails, seeing native plants bloom, and feeling a sense of awe as we look out from the highest peaks. It can be challenging to find that same excitement and peacefulness around our homes. However, when we pause and find acceptance in our circumstances, opportunity and discovery reveal themselves. Urban forest bathing is recognizing that nature is everywhere—along busy streets and even in our neighbors’ yards—but sometimes we just have to take a closer look. Here are some ways you can get closer to nature in your own neighborhood:
You can practice awareness on your walks…
Take three deep breaths before your walk and enjoy the crisp, freshly-showered air. Notice how you feel after.
Take a moment to feel, and appreciate the sun as it delivers vitamin D to your body.
Take a moment to listen, how many different bird calls do you hear?
You can practice curiosity on your walks…
How many native species can you find growing in your neighborhood?
How many types of flowers do you see in bloom?
How many unique wildlife species can you spot?
How many natural processes can you see occurring? (water cycle, erosion, pollination, photosynthesis)
You can share and connect…
Take photos and share what you find with friends on social media.
Download the iNaturalist app and ask for help identifying different species.
You can also bring more life to your home…
Bring more life into your yard, balcony, or indoor spaces. Playing in soil exposes the body to Mycobacterium vaccae, a soil bacteria that is known to reduce anxiety, depression, and improve cognitive function. Not to mention, the more native plants you have around you, the higher the chance of being visited by birds or other wildlife. While it might be hard to gather the supplies at the moment, many plant nurseries, like Tree of Life Nursery are offering phone orders so you can add more life to your yard or create eco boxes for your balcony. They’re also still open to the public since their retail location has wide trails and are able to practice safe social distancing measures. You can also check CNPS’s directory to see what other locations might still be open. Even if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your home, you can order a hummingbird feeder online and bring life right to your doorstep—just be sure to avoid any liquids with food coloring.