Forest bathe in the most heavenly French forests

In a world of desires and distractions, we hardly give our brains any rest. Most of us spend 8 hours a day looking at screens. We are constantly bombarded by calls, texts, games, and emails, and 90% of the population is now spending most of its time indoors. It is predicted that by 2050, 75% of the world's projected 9 billion population will live in cities. So, where’s the balance? How and most importantly, where are we able to truly disconnect?

What is forest bathing and why does it feel so good?

Forest bathing or Shinrin Yoku originated in Japan in the early 80s from a desire to heal oneself through nature. It is a process of relaxation and a simple method of remaining present, taking the forests through all our senses. Stepping foot in a forest is said to chemically change your body, reset your brain, ease troubled minds, and benefit our general immune system, including natural killer cells which play an important role in the defence against bacteria, viruses, and tumours.

Here are 5 wonderful forests in France to bathe in this year

Forest of Fontainebleau - Paris (Seine-et-Marne)

Why not recharge your mind and body in the second biggest (and most beautiful) forest in France, just 40 minutes by train from the City of Lights?

Fontainebleau was once a sea that dumped some of the purest sand in the world. Millions of years later, this sand turned into large banks of sandstone boulders and now embodies the present backdrop of the forest. Despite Paris’s amazing tourist attractions, beautiful streets, and monuments, long periods in an urban setting may elevate your levels of cortisol. A study done at Brighton University on brain, body and background noise showed that artificial sounds are associated with patterns of inward focus leading to worry and brooding, whilst natural sounds prompted external-focus attention and decreased the functioning of the body’s sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and increased the parasympathetic system (rest and recover). Even if you’re only going for a day, spending at least 2 hours in a forest could reduce your stress hormones as well as negative emotions.

What a way to end a trip to Paris and come back feeling even more invigorated!

Lac de Gaube – Pyrenees

Located on the Franco-Spanish border and just over 3 hours from Bordeaux by train, the Lac de Gaube is a must-see for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers. With one of the main access points to Vignemale, the highest peak of the French Pyrenees at 3,298 m, this spectacular hike offers various "forest medicines" and therapeutic features, such as pine trees and breathtaking waterfalls. Pine trees produce phytoncides, which increase human killer cell activity and anti-cancer proteins. The natural oil emitted by pine trees protects them from bacteria, insects, and fungi. It is also a way for trees to communicate with each other.

Another reason why we feel so good there is the abundance of negative ions you will find along the way, which are said to increase mental clarity and our sense of well-being. Around the Esplumouse and Darre Splumouse waterfalls and other streams, you can find over 100,000 negative ions per cubic centimetre. A regular office, in contrast, only has around 100 per cubic centimetre.

Forest De La Double in South of Dordogne

The sun beaming through the leaves, the scent of the ground travelling up, and the clean fresh air. In Japanese, they have a word to describe those feelings, Yugen, which according to Dr. Quing Li, author of Into The Forest, means it gives us a profound sense of beauty and mystery of the universe. Wandering in a huge forest without thought of return, that’s what the Forest De La Double is like. In the 12th century, it represented the limit between the possessions of the King of France and those of the king of England (from the marriage of Eleanor with Henry Plantagenet) and during the Hundred Years’ War, created a natural frontier that was difficult to invade.

It not only boasts stunning streams and trees but also one of the last wood-frame houses in the region, typical of the Dordogne Valley : the Parcot Farm in Echourgnac which was built in 1841. A place of preserved natural wealth, it is also an entertaining forest offering various activities such as hikes and horse riding, as well as a lovely restaurant on site.

Natural silence being the most endangered resource on the planet, the Forest de la Double offers a sense of peace and serenity. An interesting anecdote to add, the colour green has been proven to be good for our eyesight and forest landscapes offer a positive effect on human health, including reducing blood pressure by about 7 to 8mmHg. Another great reason to spend some quiet time away from cities.

Aiton Forest, Corsica Island

When was the last time you heard (almost) nothing? With the sound of birds chirping, waterfalls flowing and wind rustling through the leaves of the Laricio pines, the forest of Aïtone is a must-see. Dominating the Gulf of Porto, near the village of Evisa, it extends over 4,000 hectares.

Close to the Bonifacio inn, you will find various forest tracks leading to several marked walks and, if you’re lucky, throughout your walk, you might come across the Corsican black and white nuthatch measuring only a dozen centimetres, hopping from bark to bark, feeding itself with insects.

As human beings, we were built to hear the sounds of nature, which are essentially a link between the environment and ourselves. An interesting fact is that we are more sensitive to the sounds between the frequencies of 2,500 and 3,500 hertz, which is the range that birds sing in! So, slow down, focus on your breath, close your eyes, and let your ears be captured by the sounds of the natural world and have your senses refreshed and rejuvenated.

The Domaniale forest of Saint Gobain

These wonderful 9,000 hectares of oak, beech, ash, and maple trees are home to a wonderful heritage, both natural and human-made. Back in the 17th century, the forest was used for the glass combustion of the now famously known hall of mirrors in the Chateau de Versailles.

Speaking of history, many forests in Northern France still bear the scars of the previous World Wars. The Hindenburg Line, a vast German defensive system, passed through Saint-Gobain in 1914-18. This hilly territory is punctuated by ponds populated by deers and roe deers which you will most likely come across whilst hiking on the different trails, mostly starting from the rocks of l’Ermitage. Along the way, you will also find various old architectural buildings dating back to the 12th century.

This one-of-a-kind forest truly takes you back in time. Sit still, close your eyes, and consciously breathe in all of its history.