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Want to relax before the next semester? Try forest bathing

By Jenna Moede

Students need to have a way to let off steam after a long hard semester. Summer vacation provides an opportunity for that.

However, before you just sleep in late or relax inside, think about all the ways the outdoors can provide relaxation.

NPR recently released a study about the Japanese tradition of forest bathing. Forest bathing doesn’t literally involve bathing, instead someone who forest bathes focuses on immersing themselves in the forest with no preplanned destination while taking in the sights and smells and involving all their senses.

Why do it? Simple. Studies have shown that forest bathing reduces stress, reduces blood pressure and helps people incorporate physical activity into their lives leading to some other health benefits.

We all understand the stress of juggling the military life with college so reducing stress and relaxing (with the bonus of health benefits) can only help us handle it all.

I like to visit state and national parks as a way of getting outside and relieving stress, and as it turns out, they offer excellent places to forest bathe.

If you want to give forest bathing a try, seek out a park in your area. Don’t worry, if you don’t feel forest bathing calling your name, you can find so many other activities to help you refocus or reduce stress.

First, if you don’t know how to locate a park near you, check out On this website, you can select a state and then choose your park on a list of state parks, national parks, national forests and national recreation areas among others.

When you select a park, the site offers information about the history, directions, activities and even lodging. Talk about making it easy!

Along with the opportunity to try forest bathing, state parks have a vast variety of other activities to enjoy including hiking, fishing, biking, boating, camping and even special events.

The closest state park to my home, Curt Gowdy State Park, provided a guide-led New Year’s Day hike bright and early in the morning. Needless to say we showed up nice and early to start our new year with some relaxation and head clearing activities plus a few falls into some fresh snow.

They even have a special event in the summer where they give out free fishing poles to kids and teach fishing workshops. The special activities always blow me away so once you pick a state park to visit, take the time to look into their upcoming events.

Some state park systems run discounts for military so make sure to ask when you pay your entrance fee.

If you chose to visit a national park, military members have free admission to the national park system. If you don’t already have a National Park Pass, the military member can ask at any park entrance and will need to show his or her ID card. The passes stay active for a year before you’ll need to ask for a new one.

While I plan to give forest bathing a shot during the last month or so of summer vacation, I encourage you to open the door and visit a state park even if just for the sake of exploring.

Head into the forest and let go of your semesters in the past, enjoy the present moment to reduce stress and think about how to make the next semester smooth and successful. I know I reflect best in the quiet of the woods.


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