The mindful, meditative practice of forest bathing has become so popular in Sweden that skogsbad – the Swedish word for ‘forest bathing’ – has even made its way into the official Swedish dictionary.
Swedes’ relationship with nature is deeply ingrained in the Swedish lifestyle and many might say, psyche. Luckily so, as being at one with nature will stand you in good stead – a recent case study conducted at medical university Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm indicates that time spent outdoors has significant health benefits. After just 72 hours in nature, participants’ stress levels decreased by 70 percent, while their blood pressure and heart rate dropped. Their sense of wellbeing and creativity, in contrast, surged.
Swedish forest-bathing hotspots from north to south
It’s no wonder that Sweden has become a forest-bathing paradise. Wherever you set foot, you’re never far from nature. Forest – mainly the spruce and pine variety but also beech, oak and ash – covers some 70 per cent of the country, and you’ll even find it in close proximity to the cities and archipelagos.
But forest bathing is not confined to the woods alone. Sweden offers varied terrain – from the endless meadows and sandy beaches of the south to the mountainous and marshy regions further north. In Sarek National Park in Swedish Lapland, you’ll be able to forest bathe surrounded by alpine birch, marshes and dramatic glaciers.
Sweden’s natural beauty appear delightfully untouched and is carefully preserved. You’ll find an impressive number of national parks across the country. A notable example is Skuleskogen National Park, situated in the High Coast of Sweden, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The sort of forest you’ll experience here is of the old-growth variety, studded with lakes and the red granite cliffs typical of this extraordinary stretch of coastline.
A mere 20 kilometres from Stockholm’s city centre, you’ll find Tyresta National Park – a haven of deciduous woodland and primeval forests inhabited by some 8,000 animal species. The Stockholm archipelago is home to two national parks – Djurö and Ängsö – the latter of which is celebrated for its beautiful wildflower meadows.
The southern county of Småland also has its fair share of national parks. Norra Kvill National Park, for instance, boasts ancient forests, a majestic mountain and a lake sprinkled with water lilies and bogbean.
Forest bathing like a Swede – a few tips
Swedes get their fill of forest therapy in a variety of ways – from berry picking, bird watching and wild swimming to peaceful kayak excursions and relaxing hikes. But there’s no need to pick an activity either. You’ll benefit from the healing powers of nature even if you just sit on a rock and breathe in the pine-infused air. It’s a most sustainable way to enjoy nature with all your senses. Listen to the wind in the trees, discover the scent of moss, and watch the sun’s rays move slowly over rocks, stones and water. You might even refuel with a handful of blueberries that thrive here in late summer – Mother Nature’s pantry is free for all to enjoy in Sweden.
Forest bathing can be enjoyed solo or as part of a group, perhaps accompanied by a local guide who’ll enhance the experience with tips on foraging and other aspects of the Swedish nature-based lifestyle.
Before setting off, dress in layered, weatherproof clothing and wear comfortable footwear with good grip. Swim gear will come in handy – Sweden boasts among the highest number of lakes of any country in the world.
Summertime, sunscreen is a must, as is insect repellent. Also bring plenty of water and snacks.
Swedish nature is studded with cabins and rustic shelters that are free to use – particularly along the many established hiking trails – such as the Skåneleden Trail in the south and The King’s Trail up north.
You’ll soon discover how well-equipped Sweden is for anyone wanting to fully enjoy the great outdoors. If mindful travel and de-stressing are on your agenda, you’ve come to the right place.