Unplug and find calm in the art of forest bathing. Follow Kellie as she discovers the essence of Shinrin-yoku and slows down amidst nature’s embrace.


We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Country on which this adventure takes place who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants, for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

‘Today, you’re going to connect your heart, your hands, and your head,’ our Forest Therapy facilitator gently assures. ‘I’m going to guide you to be present in the moment by helping you to surrender to nature’s soundscape.’

While I’ve been very enthusiastic about trying forest bathing for some time now, as I make my way to meet my guide I have a touch of apprehension in my step. In today’s fast-paced world, I find it challenging to fully disengage from the demands of daily life.

My familiar refrain to family is, ‘I need a day in nature’. I know the profoundly calming effect being outdoors has on me and yet a lingering concern nags at me – will I truly find the serene sanctuary I seek?


I did a Forest Bathing Workshop in Melbourne – This is what it was like, Kellie Floyd, tree, Melbourne, Peppermint Garden

This peppermint garden was lush


What’s Forest Bathing?

Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a mindfulness practice. During this era, Japan’s working population was emotionally and physically burnt out from the tech boom and cultural tendency to overwork. The practice of forest bathing provided a much-needed way to reconnect with the natural environment.

Read more: Working 9-5 – How Did I Get Here?

It quickly gained popularity among adults and children. Over the next decade, researchers delved into the physiological benefits of forest bathing and scientifically confirmed what many of us know through our own experiences – that spending time in nature is profoundly beneficial.

What sets forest bathing apart from other practices is its flexible approach to mindfulness. It offers various techniques for observing nature while promoting calmness, deep breathing, and staying present in the moment. In a world where some mindfulness techniques can be rigid, e.g. yoga or meditation, forest bathing allows for a more fluid and personalised connection with the natural world.


How to Forest Bathe

I’m taking a two-hour workshop at the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens which begins at the Red Sand Garden. This striking landscape, a representation of Australia’s heart – the Red Centre – mirrors my journey to connect with my inner calm. The grey vegetation scattered throughout the garden is symbolic of the obstacles and distractions I wrestle with on my path toward inner calm.

Yet, simultaneously, the desert sands convey a sense of boundless space, much like what I’m aspiring to achieve within my own mind from the workshop.


I did a Forest Bathing Workshop in Melbourne – This is what it was like, Kellie Floyd, tree, Melbourne, Red Sand Garden

There are so many different colours represented in this garden. It’s even more beautiful when you’re standing in it


As the workshop begins, we’re reminded that phones are off-limits. Our guide shares that even though we’ll encounter moments of beauty, we’re encouraged to resist the urge to take out our devices. She also emphasises that we’re not just walking; we’re wandering through the gardens, taking in the experience at a slower pace.

Read more: 7 Things I Learned Living Without Technology for a Year

Forest Bathing values the journey over the destination. It’s dawning on me how this mindfulness practice might resonate with my everyday life. As a naturally fast walker, perhaps I need to embrace a slower stride.


Forest Bathing Exercises

My mind tends to relax best when I’m engaged in a physical activity like running, where I’m drenched in sweat and wholly absorbed in my breath. So it’s reassuring to learn that forest bathing doesn’t necessarily require you to sit still!

All Senses Mindfulness

Our first lesson, and perhaps the simplest, involves standing comfortably in front of the Red Sand Garden, closing our eyes, and deliberately engaging our senses. We explore what we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.

It’s incredible to discover how many different sensations can be experienced simultaneously.

We’re encouraged to shift our bodies in the direction that feels most comfortable, all while keeping our eyes closed. I turn, welcoming the brisk wind directly onto my face. The cool air is invigorating.

When I eventually open my eyes, I discover that other workshop participants have turned so their backs face the wind. I love this already – there’s no right or wrong.

Time Among the Trees

Next, our group is led to the Stringybark Garden, where our guide tells us about the remarkable adaptability of Australia’s flora to bushfires. Here, we’re encouraged to ‘spend time with a leaf’. It’s at this point that I begin to grapple with doubts about the ‘hippy-ish’ nature of the experience, but I resist the urge to dismiss it entirely.

We’re instructed to choose a tree that speaks to us. I find myself drawn to what I believe to be an adolescent eucalyptus tree. It stands at just the right height, not too small, and not too tall. It’s as if it’s inviting me to share a moment of connection.


I did a Forest Bathing Workshop in Melbourne – This is what it was like, Kellie Floyd, tree, Melbourne, Beautiful tree

My tree friend


We’re instructed to take our eyes to the base of our chosen tree and slowly allow our gaze to travel to the first fork in the tree. From there, we’re to follow the first branch outward, extending our concentration to the very last leaf, where we’re encouraged to linger for a while.

Incredibly, during this 10-minute exercise, I find myself unable to move past the point where the trunk meets the first branch. I’m utterly captivated by its beauty. I’ve never before noticed such an array of colours – the greens, grays, and browns.

I’m absolutely at peace here.

The tree seems to undulate and transform, resembling paper mache with both soft and sharp edges. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. While the group is encouraged to walk around the tree and touch it, I remain still, entirely fixated on this part of the tree. It’s a profoundly moving experience.

I’m wrong to have dismissed it at first.

Mindfulness at Your Fingertips

Our journey leads us slowly to the Peppermint Garden, where a diverse array of aromatic plants awaits us, some more pleasantly scented than others. Here, we’re encouraged to stroll leisurely, allowing our sense of smell to guide us along the winding paths. Our guide shares a gentle reminder that there’s no fixed destination in this practice.

Read more: The Magic of the Morning Golden Hour

As we amble through the garden, we’re prompted to gently run our thumb and one finger along the scented flowers, leaves, and bark before inhaling deeply, changing fingers for each new plant to avoid blending the aromas. This mindfulness exercise evokes memories, as many of us recall past experiences through the power of scent.


I did a Forest Bathing Workshop in Melbourne – This is what it was like, Kellie Floyd, tree, Melbourne, forest bathe

Snuggling up with leaves feels less weird by the end, promise


While in theory, I’m aware each plant has its own unique fragrance, I’ve never taken the time to savour the differences until now. Amusingly, it becomes evident that not everyone’s sense of smell is the same. What one person finds beautiful, another perceives differently, and the group’s diverse reactions add an intriguing layer to our sensory exploration.

Mindfulness at Snail’s Pace

We continue our stroll, and magnifying glasses are distributed. The group is encouraged to meander through the garden at a snail’s pace, to truly observe a plant for an extended period and in greater detail. The goal is to notice shapes and textures that we might overlook when simply walking by.

As I accept the magnifying glass, I feel a bit self-conscious. Am I in primary school again?

However, my initial inhibitions gradually dissolve as I become engrossed in the tiny world I discover through this lens. I find myself fixated on a minuscule caterpillar that’s journeying across the heart of a flower. How can something so tiny, with seemingly minimal significance in the grand scheme of things, so effortlessly draw me into the present moment? It’s a marvel I would have never imagined.

Read more: Here’s How to be Present on Your Next Outdoor Adventure


A path to inner calm in everyday life

I anticipated this workshop to provide a tranquil, meditative experience amidst the greenery. However, I was surprised to find that some of the exercises required movement. It’s a practice that can be embraced solo or with a companion. But, I must confess that as we settled into our peaceful moments, the soft chatter of others in the workshop did bother me occasionally.

What truly resonated, though, was the realisation that forest bathing is not confined to a large bush or forest setting where there’s no man-made noise.

Forest bathing is truly accessible, something that can be brought into our everyday lives.

Our facilitator suggests the concept of a ‘sit spot’ in our backyard, where we can sit, listen, observe, and discover new nuances throughout the changing seasons.

So, if you’re not the type who excels at sitting still, but you still yearn for some precious time away from the hustle and bustle, forest bathing might just be the perfect remedy for you!


I did a Forest Bathing Workshop in Melbourne – This is what it was like, Kellie Floyd, tree, Melbourne, forest bathe

Forest bathing. No soap required


Where to join a Forest Bathing Workshop