, 2023-01-19 06:00:49,
Students at Binghamton University are easing the stress that comes along with daily college life through forest bathing. This offering comes via OUT177: Hiking which is a credit-based course with Outdoor Pursuits, a program area under Campus Recreation.
Originally a Japanese meditation technique, forest bathing relaxes the mind through natural immersion and offers many health benefits. Exposure to sunlight and nature can improve sleep quality; reduces anger, fear and stress; and increases positive feelings.
The class is taught by Elias Miller, an adjunct professor, who made the incorporation of forest bathing more intentional in recent years. Now, his classes practice five-minute mediation sessions at the end of each hike.
“Hiking is unique in its ability to provide both physical and mental benefits,” said Miller. “There’s something about spending time in nature and greenery that’s really healthy for students, and I wanted to hone in that aspect of the class. It’s not just about the physicality of hiking but absorbing your surroundings and being mindful through meditation.”
Laura Cichostepski, the assistant director of Marketing, said the hiking class sizes are small and personal, capped at 12 students.
“This both limits environmental impact and facilitates a closer group bond,” said Cichostepski. “The location differs from class to class with students having the opportunity to explore county parks, state forests, local trails and Binghamton University’s 190-acre nature preserve.”
Cichostepski said Miller’s classes are energetic social hikes with a focus on skill building. Students learn how to read maps, identify local wildlife and navigate trails, all while working together to build a cooperative group dynamic.
In contrast, the forest bathing sessions are slow, reflective and quiet. These short sessions at the end of each hike help students fully immerse themselves in the present moment and connect with the natural world surrounding them.
Student reaction from participating in forest bathing is positive thus far with most feedback praising the escape the activity offers.
“After pushing yourself physically, the forest puts you in a different headspace,” said Phoebe Paul, a Binghamton senior and class participant. “It’s easy to let your mind drift, and your thoughts are going to be more positive afterward.”
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