Franciscan Spirituality Center suggests ‘forest bathing’ to ease COVID-19 stress

Japanese practice involves accepting invite to inner stillness
All Hixon and Forest Hills trails closed until further notice

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – An option to relieve stress if you’re feeling cooped up during Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer-at-Home” order is forest bathing, although it isn’t remotely connected to what a bear does in the woods.
In fact, the only thing you might bare in the woods would be your soul, according to the spiritual endeavor of forest bathing, a Japanese practice also called or shinrin-yoku.
OK, enough frivolity — the suggestion from the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse to help cope with COVID-19 pressures and being cooped up is a reference to a recent presentation at the center by Vicki Lopez-Kaley and Kristine Beck,
Forest bathing involves immersing yourself in the forest through your senses, said Lopez-Kaley and Beck, who told of studies showing that spending time in nature, especially among trees, can reduce anxiety, elevate mood and increase focus.
Forest bathing is not hiking or exercising but rather an invitation to inner stillness, to slowing down and to connecting mind, body and spirit, according to the FSC.

Lopez-Kaley and Beck made the following points, among others, for those who attended their presentation.
Forest bathing can be done on a trail, in your yard or even near a window if you can’t go outside. The recommended “dose” of forest bathing is two to four hours, but benefits can be experienced in as little as 20 minutes.

For example:

  • Set an intention and begin with a ritual as you cross the threshold of the forest. Find a convenient place to sit on the ground or a bench.
    • Stay in one place, using all of your senses to explore the present moment for about 15 minutes.
    • Walk slowly, noticing what is in motion around you for 20 minutes.
    • Choose one to three invitations from nature that fit you and the situation. Take as much time as you need to pay attention to your surroundings, body sensations and how your senses connect you to nature.
    • Sit quietly for 20 minutes.
    • End with a ceremony, such as drinking tea and journaling about your experiences.

Other tips:

  • Let things reveal themselves naturally, without expectations.
  • Notice things on the ground. Gather a few that appeal to you. Perhaps a stone catches your attention. Pick it up carefully and give it to one of your hopes or worries as a way to let the natural world hold what you hold.
  • Take a moment to say a genuine “hello” to a tree without words. In the silence of your heart, share a thought, feeling, compliment, question or secret.
  • Renew your energy. Slowly, over about eight seconds, take in a deep breath filling your belly, not simply your chest. Hold it for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale for a count of 10. Repeat five times or more as you stand or sit still.
    If you journal and don’t mind sharing your reflections with a wider audience, email FSC communications coordinator Stacey Kalas at
    The FSC also offers free weekly Reflections From the Center you can sign up for at the center’s website or email The center also has a Facebook page.