woman doing yoga at dramatic overlook

Take self care to the next level. (Photo: Getty Images)

Health + Fitness

From Forest Bathing to Wild Swimming, Indulge in Self-Care on a ‘Rejuvacation’

Time away from home is the perfect time to rejuvenate. Freed from the stresses of work and monotony of your daily routine, you have the chance to relax and indulge in some self-care. Travel is often about trying new things, so on your next trip, try one of these wellness activities that will both connect you with the environment and culture of your surroundings and leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated in body, mind and soul.

Forest Bathing

boy in forest taking notes
Spend some time connecting with nature in a forest. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Japanese practice of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is concerned with immersing yourself in nature and deliberately engaging with your surroundings. The term emerged in the 1980s and was soon found to have such health benefits as lowered blood pressure and an improved immune system.

You can practice forest bathing anywhere by simply taking a walk in the woods and tuning all of your senses to connect with what’s around you: Listen to the leaves rustle, notice the sunlight filtered through the branches, and smell the air. More structured guide-led experiences are available everywhere from North Carolina to Mount Etna in Sicily.

Wild Swimming

Once the preserve of boot camps and triathlon training, open-water swimming is growing in popularity, especially in the icy lakes and chilly rivers of the United Kingdom.

The reported physical and mental health benefits of immersion into frigid water include reduced fatigue, stress and inflammation, as well as the release of mood-enhancing dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin.

Strong swimmers can simply find a local body of water and jump in. Others can build confidence by practicing first in an outdoor pool or, in the U.K., a local lido such as Hyde Park’s Serpentine. Wherever you choose to splash around, be sure to keep the Outdoor Swimmer’s Code in mind.

woman swimming in frozen water
Swimming in ice is not for the feint of heart. (Photo: Getty Images)


If you find wild swimming a breeze, you may possess the Finnish trait of sisu. A word with no direct English translation, sisu refers to a individual’s grit and resilience — of determinedly pushing oneself beyond one’s limits.

While sisu has emerged as a lifestyle trend over the past few years, it’s long been a way of life for Finns. A perfect illustration is the ease with which Finns embrace ice swimming, jumping into holes cut into frozen lakes.

It’s an experience that promises such benefits as endorphin release and enhanced circulation and is best when coupled with that other Finnish tradition: warming up in the sauna.


In late 2018, doctors in Scotland made the news when they started issuing “nature prescriptions” recommending such activities as bird-watching, hiking and beach walks to treat chronic illnesses including depression, anxiety, diabetes and heart disease.

But there’s nothing new about so-called eco-therapy: Humans have long instinctively known that slowing down to take in our natural surroundings gives us a feeling of restoration.

If you’re new to bird-watching, you only need to look out your window to begin to appreciate the wonder of birds, while on vacation, you can embark on a guided tour of bird-watching hot spots all around the world, from Costa Rica to Virginia.


man fly-fishing
Fly fishing has noted mental health benefits. (Photo: Getty Images)

In our overstimulated era, the calm, meditative act of fly-fishing (the repeated action of casting a fly into the water), as well as the solitude and close connection to nature it fosters, has led to a recent spike in interest in the quiet, traditional sport, with recent studies increasing awareness of the sport’s mental health benefits.

Alone with just the soothing sound of the water and the gentle pull of the line, fly fishers report feeling relaxed, de-stressed and focused. The best U.S. spots are found on the rivers, streams, lakes and ponds west of the Mississippi River, but if you’re new to the sport, you can start out with a guided experience.

Seaweed Baths

In the west of Ireland, seaweed bathing has been a popular pastime for centuries, and for good reason.

The seawater in seaweed is composed of ingredients similar to blood plasma, so the sea’s vitamins and minerals — including omega, zinc and magnesium — are easily absorbed into the body as you soak in a tub filled with seaweed that’s been harvested from the Atlantic coast.

Benefits include decreased stress, as well as the relief of muscle and joint aches and skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. If you can’t make it to a traditional bathhouse, such as VOYA Seaweed Baths in County Sligo, you can DIY from anywhere with a ready-to-soak bath box.

Cow Cuddling

man hugging cow
Because we all need a bovine hug sometimes. (Photo: Getty Images)

Cuddling cows, which originated in the Netherlands, where it’s known as koe knuffelen, sounds like one of the odder wellness trends — but its benefits are quite simple. Hugging is universally comforting, triggering touch receptors under the skin that help reduce stress, and interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of stress-related hormones and lower blood pressure.

So it stands to reason that combining hugging with animal interaction would be calming, especially if that animal has the warm body and relatively slow heartbeat of a cow lying down and slowly chewing its cud in a pleasant green pasture. In addition to cow cuddling in the Netherlands, you can also try embracing a cow at farms in Switzerland.