Forest bathing: a walk in the woods is exactly what you need

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By Sarah Sekula, published in USA TODAY

Santa Cruz, Argentina — When we arrive at Aguas Arriba Lodge, a cozy hideaway in the heart of the Patagonian Andes, we don’t waste any time. Our cheerful guide, Julie, spreads out a map of the surrounding land—packed with glaciers, thick forests and aquamarine rivers—and talks about the dozens of hiking trails. Her enthusiasm comes as no surprise because this happens to be one of the trekking capitals of the world.

With Patagonia’s long list of superlatives, it’s perfect timing for something I’ve been wanting to try out: shinrin-yoku (aka forest bathing). No, it’s not what you may be thinking. It does not involve stripping down and scrubbing off in the river. Instead, think of it as a purposeful walk, a mobile meditation of sorts. The practice, used by the Japanese for decades, means “taking in the forest atmosphere” and was developed specifically to combat stress.

When we set out on the trail the next morning, I shut off my cell phone so I can fully soak up every facet around me. Raindrops hit the hood of my jacket with a kerplunk. The lenga trees sway back and forth sounding exactly like creaky haunted-house doors. And the stream we hop over has that soothing gentle hum.

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