This month's cover photo features a snowy forest scene along the Merced River in California's Yosemite National Park. It's a setting befitting an increasingly popular practice in the United States: forest bathing.
What is forest bathing? Put simply, it involves mindfully indulging in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature to achieve a sense of calm. Unlike in hiking, the aim of forest bathing isn't exertion or reaching an end point. It's about walking slowly and stopping frequently—perhaps taking time to sit or lay on a blanket—to notice and appreciate one's surroundings.
Forest bathing has its roots in Japan, where it has been a part of the country's national health program since 1982. (Japan has 62 official “forest therapy bases”—forests designated as particularly suitable for the practice.) As AJN editor-in-chief Shawn Kennedy discusses in this month's editorial, “Finding a Peaceful Place,” forest bathing is associated with positive health effects, such as lowered blood pressure.
While there are numerous trained forest therapy guides across the United States who lead group walks, forest bathing is easy to do independently. All it requires is an hour or two to spend observing the finer details of nature, like the colors of leaves or the sounds of birds. And the setting doesn't have to be a forest—one can “bathe” in any peaceful natural space.—Diane Szulecki, editor