The Benefits of Shinrin-yoku for Dads: Finding Balance and Well-being in Nature

Allow me to introduce or reintroduce you to the art of shinrin-yoku, a Japanese term that translates to “forest bathing.” It’s a simple concept of taking time out in nature, immersing oneself in its beauty by going for slow and mindful walks in forests, parks, or any quiet space. The aim is to connect with nature through all five senses, slow down from the rush of life, and rejuvenate both mind and body.

As a Christian, I look to Jesus Christ as a prime example of how to live a good life. If you carefully read in the New Testament, Jesus took time to be in nature and made time for solitude. Here are a couple examples:

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

Mark 1:35

And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

Matthew 14:23

Even the Savior Himself needed to take time for self-care and renewal, and knowing His capacity, how much more do we need to make and take time to do the same!

Even Jesus recognized the value of taking time for self-care and renewal. He took time away from his busy ministry to rest and recharge, to be alone with God and to connect with nature. When his cousin, John, was beheaded by Herod, he sought solitude in “a desert place apart” (Matthew 14:13). If the Savior of the world, who had a divine capacity for love and compassion, deemed it necessary to prioritize self-care, then it is even more imperative for us to do the same. We are all human, and we all have our limitations. It is imperative that make time for self-care, so that we can continue to give our best to the world and to improve civilization as we know it. Whether it’s through exercise, mindfulness, nature, or any other form of self-care, taking time to recharge is essential for our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

The naturalist John Muir said, “in every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”

This practice has helped me embody the qualities I aspire to have and has contributed immensely to my personal growth, both as an individual and especially as a father.

I love the sentiment expressed by Muir, and it is one that I truly, profoundly believe in. It highlights the idea that when we spend time in nature, we receive unexpected benefits that go beyond what we set out to achieve. By simply being in the presence of nature and taking a walk, we open ourselves up to a wealth of sensory experiences that can be restorative and rejuvenating. Whether it’s the sound of birds chirping, the scent of freshly blooming flowers, or the feeling of a gentle breeze on our skin, nature has the power to bring us back to the present moment and leave us feeling refreshed and revitalized. In this way, every walk with nature can be a reminder of the infinite beauty and wonder that surrounds us, and a reminder to slow down, breathe, and appreciate the simple things in life. When we walk with nature, we receive far more than just physical exercise, we receive an opportunity to heal, connect, and find peace within ourselves.

Some of my most powerful spiritual experiences have been when engaged with nature. I remember one weekend my wife and kids were out of town visiting her family and I had to stay at home because I had some work commitments I couldn’t miss. I was feeling overwhelmed with work and everything else going on in my life, and I just wasn’t connecting with anyone — my family, friends, or God.

That Saturday, I decided to go on a hike up a canyon close to my home. I planned this to be a trail run, so took a bit of food and water, my headphones, and drove to the trailhead. After a couple of miles into my run, I just had the impression that I should silence my music and just be in nature. I slowed to a walk, and just enjoyed being out in the forest. I could hear birds, insects, leaves blowing, and the musical sound of the creek flowing nearby. I felt like I was connecting with nature, and by extension, with God. It made me realize that the secret to connection is fully engaging with what you want to connect with, whether that be your family, friends, co-workers, classmates, or anyone else.

Since this experience, I have striven to get outside and immerse myself in nature as often as possible. Sometimes that meant once a week, other times once a month, depending on what my schedule could afford. As I have gained more experience, I have set a goal now to practice shinrin-yoku at least three times per week. I do use the time for exercise, but I avoid having anything in my ears so I can fully engage with the world around me.

Solitude along a trail in the Mount Naomi Wilderness.

Since I started treating my time in nature as sacred, I’ve noticed a significant transformation in myself. My patience, kindness, understanding, and ability to stay calm and compassionate have all improved. This practice has helped me embody the qualities I aspire to have and has contributed immensely to my personal growth, both as an individual and especially as a father.

I encourage you to carve out some time in your busy schedule for regular shinrin-yoku, whether it be a 15-minute stroll in the park or a more extended hike. Incorporate this into your weekly routine, just as you would with any other important appointment or task. Trust me, as you make this a habit, you will find that your creativity and overall capability will soar! So, why not give it a try and experience the many benefits of forest bathing for yourself?

Jonathan Haws

I am a devoted family man and enjoy going on adventures with my wife and four children. My deepest desire is to be the best husband, father, and friend I can be by inspiring a love for life, a connection with nature, and a willingness to let God prevail.

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  1. […] your spiritual well-being can help you to be a happier, healthier, and more purposeful dad. So go out into nature, connect with something greater than yourself, and develop a positive outlook, and you’ll see […]

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