Why Glorious Autumn is the best time to go Forest Bathing

Autumnal countryside scene

Predictions have been made for a glorious autumn display this year. Why? It’s all thanks to the weather. High levels of sunshine throughout spring, a wet June and then further sunshine in July result in trees building up lots of leaf sugar in plant tissues. 

The glorious autumnal rainbow of colour

As a consequence, you see the range of striking pigments as the green leaves in deciduous trees and other plants transform into rich shades of gold and orange through to vivid red, various hues of brown, russet and even deep purple. 

The show could be even more spectacular thanks to a bout of sunshine in September, the weather remaining fairly stable in October and the recent cold nights. The vibrant display of warm, comforting tones should be a sight to behold and could well continue through to mid-November.

It’s time to wrap up warm and get your walking boots on! 

Autumnal forest scene

Sensory activation to boost health and wellbeing

Now more than ever, we need to be spending more time outdoors and in nature, particularly in woodland. This is because you get the physical health-boosting benefits of phytoncides when amongst trees (read more here). The bright colours of the glorious autumn display, the heavenly scents and the sounds of the crisp leaves crunching underfoot all help to enhance your wellbeing. And we’re all going to need a boost to help us through the approaching colder, darker months. 

Slowing down, connecting mindfully to your natural surroundings and breathing in the forest air for 2-3 hours is the order of the day on a Shinrin-Yoku / Forest Bathing session. This combination of slow movement, mindful focus and reduced heart rate is proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and strengthen your immune system. 

And it’s not only the canopy that will be flaunting its glorious autumn delights.

Flowers and shrubs in glorious autumn

Gardeners World this week had a feature on autumn flowers and there were some gorgeous choices; the crimson glory vine with its rich red colour, the Michaelmas daisy that flowers with free abandon and the autumn-flowering crocus. 

Colourful autumnal fungi 

Our otherworldly fungi, with its huge variety of shape and colour, is ready to wow your every turn in autumn. Remember – no pick, no lick unless you’re an experienced forager, but by all means, feast your eyes upon the abundant delights.

On a recent walk in Micheldever Woods in Hampshire, I discovered three spectacular specimens:

  1. the Amethyst Deceiver with its deep purple gills
  2. the Yellow Stag Horn’s bright orange jelly antlers and
  3. the Beefsteak Fungus with its chunky, deep red flesh that bleeds a thin red liquid, resembling raw meat.

They’re all recorded as edible, although the stag’s horn apparently holds no flavour, nutritional value nor enjoyable texture. 

If you’re out and about and would like to identify species I can highly recommend the Seek app. I tried a few different apps and found Seek to be the most accurate, plus it gives the best user experience. 

Fruits, berries and nuts in autumn

The growth of autumnal fruits and berries such as spindle and blue sloes adds to the glorious autumn display. 

Experts are predicting a bumper year for fruit and nuts.

Andrew Smith, Forestry England’s director at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire explains: “The fruit and nut blossoms managed to escape the frost in early spring and the rain in June helped the fruits to swell. July’s sunshine and warm weather helped them to continue to grow which means we should see a great year for fruit and nuts”. 

I’ve definitely noticed the birds are more vocal; I think they are happy.

The story in the glorious autumnal soil 

And remember, that when trees lose their leaves in autumn, they provide the soil with nourishment. And support billions of microscopic organisms that provide the building blocks for all life in the forest. It’s a pretty big deal. 

vivid autumn leaves scattered on ground

When you are next in the woods, I encourage you to get down to ground level and collect a handful of the humus layer. It will include decaying matter; twigs, leaves, pine needles, water, earth, sand, perhaps a ladybird’s wing? Study your sample and then cup it in your hand and inhale deeply. The smell triggers the production of oxytocin; the love hormone.

We all want more love in our lives so get smelling your soil 🙂

For best results get outside after recent rainfall. The smell is known as petrichor. It’s often one of the most enjoyed activities on a Shinrin-Yoku experience, so don’t be put off – I guarantee you will be amazed. 

Mushroom on its side on grass
Photo credit: Nick Sharpin

Make the most of the spectacular autumn display with a Forest Bathing experience

You won’t be surprised to read that I consider Autumn to be the perfect season to try Forest Bathing.

Pause for a moment, take a slow, deep breath and notice how you’re feeling. Relaxed? Tempted to get out there? Do it – the spectacular display doesn’t last long so don’t miss it. 

On the guided experience you get to press pause and ‘just be’ for 2.5-3 hours. I am responsible for timekeeping, facilitation of all invitations (mindfulness activities) and holding a safe space for everyone in the group reflection circles. You’ll do group and solo invitations and the process can be incredibly cathartic. You’ll definitely get a broader depth of experience in a group, find it easier to fully unwind and leave with a deep sense of relaxation and clarity of mind.  

Find out more about Forest Bathing in Glorious Autumn

If you’d like to join me on a guided Shinrin-Yoku session in Hampshire or Berkshire, check out the schedule of events. And here’s a video showing the practice. 

Sign up to the mailing list to receive special offers and priority access to sessions! 

Let me know your autumnal discoveries, and whether you forage for fungi or perhaps you’re making sloe gin?

With blessings from the autumnal forest, 

Sonya X


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