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  • Forest Bathing: Benefits for Couples

    Unlocking the Magic of Forest Bathing: Deepening the Connection in your Relationship Through Nature

    Are you feeling a little lost in the chaos of the everyday? In the hustle and bustle of modern life, where screens often dominate our attention, and the pace of life seems ever-accelerating, many couples find themselves yearning for a deeper connection, not just with each other, but with the world around them. If potted plants and urban skylines aren’t exactly doing the trick, it might be time for a more arborary approach. In St. Louis, Missouri as in other cities we might find ourselves far from the slower pace of a more forest-filled area. It can still be done whether with a short day trip or a jaunt to the local park. I want to introduce the practice of forest bathing for you and your honey.

    Forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku, a Japanese practice that translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere,” is an ancient tradition, now backed by science. It is not just about taking a leisurely stroll in the woods; it’s an immersive experience that engages all the senses, promising a myriad of health benefits, including stress reduction, improved mood, and strengthened connections with both nature and one’s partner.

    The natural world, with its timeless rhythms and ancient wisdom, offers a profound sense of relaxation that can dramatically transform our relationships. This tranquility not only aids in the reduction of stress but also cultivates an environment where couples can approach conversations and each other from a place of calm and understanding. Engaging in the practice of forest bathing or Shinrin-Yoku, couples are invited into a space where the usual distractions and pressures of life fade away, allowing for a change in perspective that can deeply enrich their connection.

    Hug a Tree, Hug a Spouse: Forest Bathing Explainedcouples holding hands encircling a tree, Katheryn Barton Uplift and Connect Counseling nature therapy forest bathing for couples

    The term ‘forest bathing’ might conjure up some strange images, but it’s not about cleaning woodland critters. No, it’s soaking in the forest’s atmosphere through every sense—walk, breathe, and be in nature. And here’s the kicker: studies show that forest bathing can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and the production of stress hormones. Plus, it improves your mood and brain activity. Essentially, it’s like taking your heart on a spa day.

    Who knew a bunch of leaves and a breath of fresh air could do so much for your heart and your relationship? It’s a bit like ecotherapy, but you’re both therapist and client, and instead of an office, you’ve got an ancient thicket of trees. It’s a time-tested remedy for the stresses of the 21st century. With these benefits in mind, it’s worth understanding how this practice can be tailored to nurture the relationship nearest and dearest to you—your romantic one.

    very tall tree full of leaves with a clock in the middle of it, Katheryn Barton Uplift and Connect Counseling Kirkwood MO nature therapy forest bathing for couplesTree Time is Quality Time

    The everyday grind has a way of swallowing up the hours and leaving little room for “us” time. Yet, studies consistently find that couples who engage in novel and challenging activities together perceive a greater relationship quality. Forest bathing offers a dual challenge in the form of mental and physical trailblazing, with the nourishing green hues and oxygen-rich atmosphere acting as the cherry on top.

    -Rediscovering Peace and Connection: Picture it—stepping into a forest, birdsong foregrounding the gentle sway of the trees. Each step, hand in hand, grounds you, slows you down, and brings you back to a space where time is a melody, not a march.

    -Escaping the Daily Grind: Step through the threshold of those woodland giants, the emails and chores are miles behind. It’s a setting that naturally frames the quality of your time together.

    -Branching Out Together: There’s a harmony in nature that resonates with our quest for togetherness. In the randomness of the forest, you can find a shared sense of awe and curiosity, side by side. In taking this time to share the subtleties of nature you and your partner can enjoy the special aspects about each other and your unique connection.

    Hormones and Harmony

    Did you know walking among the trees actually feels healing? The scientific nitty-gritty backs it up—phytoncides, the forest’s fragrances, are more than just a nice smell. Research suggests that being exposed to phytoncides can lower heart rate, cortisol levels, and blood pressure. They offer an increase in relaxation. They have even been found to increase the body’s ability to fight pathogens and cancerous cells. 

    Natural Remedies: Trees produce these natural-yet-potent organic compounds that can help boost your immune system and lower cortisol levels, the pesky stress hormone. Imagine a future where the smell of pine is your Prozac. And just breathing them in can bring you and your partner into a relaxed state together while doing your bodies good.

    Improvements Over Time: Regular forest immersions can lead to better sleep quality, which is the glue of emotional and mental well-being. A serene night cradled in the forest’s influence is a night spent repairing and rejuvenating. And feeling well-rested aids in the repairing of your relationship as well.

    -Amping up the Aesthetics: Not only are you taking in the scenic views of trees and woodland creature but also the colorful flecks in your partner’s eyes as you take in these calming moments. It’s commonly observed that scenic settings not only please the eye but placate the mind.

    The Power of the Sit Spot

    In the heart of the forest’s rhythm, lies the sit spot—a place where whispers become clear, and silence gains volume. Establishing one as a couple can become a mini-retreat, a ritual to revisit time and again to renew the connection.older couple sitting on a rock together staring our over a cliff at the ocean Katheryn barton Uplift and Connect Counseling nature therapy forest bathing for couples

    -A Shared Space for Reflection: Choosing a sit spot is as much about the feelings it inspires as it is about practicality. Once found, returning to it can forge a mental map of moments you’ve shared and the growth you’ve experienced.

    -Nurturing the Routine: Making forest bathing a habit can be as simple as frequenting the same sit spot. Here, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, but rather comfort and a deepening of your bond with each other and the land. Think about a sit spot you can find close to home. A place that can feel special for you and your love to contemplate you connection on the regular.

    -Exchanging Stories: At your sit spot, the floor is yours and the time is immersive. Here, you can leave the cares and walls of home behind and exchange stories to share in the calmness of the spot. 

    Trails and Trials

    Navigating a relationship within the confines of four walls can sometimes feel like being boxed in. Take it outside, and the world, or rather the forest, becomes your relationship counselor—a vast, green Sue Johnson.

    -Discovering Each Other Anew: The challenges presented by natural settings bring about invigorating new ways to rediscover and strengthen the threads of your relationship. By taking time to acknowledge hard things and challenges in your relationship while in this space gives it new perspective and new life for change.

    -Trust in the Treetops: Partners can draw closer in the face of shared challenges. The unpredictability and wild nature of forests offer opportunities to experience the exhilaration of newness and the calm of mutual trust. Explore the ruggedness of the outdoors and relearn how to trust each other within this backdrop.

    -Raw Conversations in Natural Settings: When conversations at home become stale or issues avoid the minefield of words, a walk among the trees can create new conversation paths. Wind your way to a new solutions or a new way to hear and understand each other.lesbian couple on a trail hiking over a mossy rock Katheryn Barton Uplift and Connect Counseling Kirkwood Mo nature therapy forest bathing for couples

    Processing the Day’s Insights Under Nature’s Roof

    Communication, they say, is key, and what better setting to unlock potential discussions than the tranquil woods? When we explore communication as we explore the outdoors isn’t it a goal or a necessity to not do it harm? UNDERSTANDING, just like nature and it’s wild ways, needs understanding, so does our relationship and all of the nuances that come with it.

    -The Patience of Trees: In the forest, time blooms and wilts with an ageless grace. This patient environment can foster a similarly patient dialogue, one that asks you to listen hard and hear well before answering. Take this and put it into effect in slowing down how you react and respond to your partner. The patience for understanding will bring about tall change within the relationship.

    -Judgment Flees: Out here, weighty judgment is replaced by a light sense of observation. It’s easier to broach sensitive topics when you’re not under the shadow of judgment. The vision this imposes of hiding under a shadow can help us remember that we want to bring out the light of our partner and that’s hard to do when it is shrouded in darkness.

    -Natural Reflection: After a day spent among the trees, what path will your reflections take? What branches of conversation will you pursue—will you grow toward the sky or handsomely swerve towards twisted ground. No matter which path you choose as long as it is one that speaks true to your connection, it’s hard to go wrong.

    From Trailheads to Daily Threads

    The sweetest part of a forest bath? It’s not fleeting. The lessons learned among the trees can be woven into the fabric of your everyday. Take away the calmness and healing of the forest and trees and implement that into your daily interactions. Let this be an inspiration and a guide to slow things down and take in each other as you take in the beauty of the forest.

    -Post-Immergence Integration: The conversations and connections sparked by a forest bathing experience don’t end where the trail does. They follow you home, harmonizing with daily life, and embedding themselves in the routine. Think about these revelations during your weekly check-ins and let it guide you toward a deeper understanding.

    -Integrating the Relaxation and Connection into Daily Life: The tranquility and sense of closeness you achieve in the woods can be incorporated into your home, into every day. It’s about noticing the little things and sharing that wonder with each other. As you add a space of calmness to your relationship cultivate that with the relaxation you took away from the trees.

    -Ongoing Conversations and Recalling Shared Event: Reflecting on significant shared experiences offers a wellspring for ongoing conversation and understanding, ensuring your relationship is as flexible and resilient as the very trees you walk amongst. 

    Closing Words on Communicating Through Nature

    The language of forests is one best spoken in the heart of the trees, surrounded by their wisdom and history. Forest bathing can foster a shared love of this unique dialect, translating into a richer, more nuanced form of communication between partners. The calmness and slow pace the forest provides allows couples to join in the slowness and see each other in a refreshed way.

    It’s a powerful tool to turn to when languorous days of Netflix and chilling no longer seem to shore up the intimate reserves you both crave. And so, take a deep breath and step forward together into the living heart of the wild, for in its branches lies a heart that’s a mirror of your own. The heart of your partner and the connection you are striving for.

    So let’s embrace the power of nature to bring us closer, and make every day an opportunity for connection and growth. Let’s create a life that is filled with daily threads of relationship building, weaving together love, laughter, and adventure. Because when we live in harmony with nature and each other, our relationships can truly thrive. So go ahead, grab your partner’s hand and let’s walk into the beauty of nature together. Who knows what wonders we’ll discover and what closeness we’ll deepen by simply being in each other’s presence, surrounded by the symphony of nature.

    I offer this as a place to explore and set time aside to dive into the forest with your partner. Or find a trained Nature Therapist  such as a wonderful local one that I love, Jess Thenhaus, to guide you through a journey embracing the sanctuary of the trees and letting it influence your relationship for the better.

    I hope this has been enlightening and inspiring. I’ll see you and your partner on the trail!

    Happy forest and nature bathing, my friends!


    -Katheryn Barton

    blonde woman in a striped sweater standing amongst green plants Katheryn Barton LPC Kirkwood MO Uplift and Connect Counseling