"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." John Muir
Everything is connected to everything else. That includes us. But with lifestyles that keep many of us indoors we don't always feel very connected to the natural world we live in.
Forest Bathing, translated from Shinrin-yoku, a term coined in Japan in the 1980's, is about immersing in the wonder and joy of nature --"bathing" in it's beneficial aerosols and atmosphere. Forest Bathing is at the heart of a research-based wellness practice that helps us remember, experience and deepen our relationship with nature. It is the inspiration for Nature and Forest Therapy or Nature Immersion, different terms for a way of spending time in a natural setting that promotes mutual healing - for the human and for the environment.
(By “nature” we don’t mean grand, pristine wilderness. Nature can be a a small city park, a grassy patch in a yard or a garden - or a tree outside your window)
Forest Bathing is a standard preventative health practice in Japan and other countries where physicians write “prescriptions” for quiet, focused time in natural settings on a regular basis. Trees emit various aerosols and compounds into the air. When we “bathe” in the beneficial chemicals and essential oils that trees “shower", research shows that many people gain a range of physical and mental health benefits:
Lowered blood pressure
Improved cardiovascular and immune system functioning
Reduced stress with decreased production of cortisol/stress hormones
Increased production of disease fighting NK (Natural Killer) cells
Increase in energy, focus, creativity and sense of wellbeing
Improved sleep and mood
The Forest is the Therapist. The Guide Opens the Doors
Regardless of the science, most of us know that we usually feel happier when we spend time outdoors.
Forest Therapy walks led by a trained guide offer a simple way to experience nature’s “medicine” as your mind quiets and your senses awaken. Guided walks follow a sequence to help you connect mindfully with yourself, others and, ideally, the world outside of walls. They can take place in any outdoor space. With the challenge of the pandemic or physical limitations, Forest Therapy can even happen indoors, calling up the sensations of a favorite nature place through memory and imagination. Many guides are offering virtual walks using online meeting platforms with great success.
Why Go With a Guide?
Forest Bathing is not meant to be a one time experience, but a practice – much like exercise or yoga or prayer. I encourage you to cultivate this practice any way that works for you, even if it’s just for 20 minutes once or twice a week. But many of us just don’t have the discipline or motivation to sustain another self-care practice. Perhaps we don't have easy access to a safe, natural setting We may feel isolated and lonely. Joining a group walk with a trained guide is a way to help cultivate and maintain your practice, experience the social benefit of a community and just “let go and let the guide”. A trained guide has carefully chosen a trail, is prepared for what might be encountered and is knowledgeable about the medicinal benefits of the local plants used in the closing tea ceremony. Guides are certified in Wilderness First Aid.
The positive effects of a walk often unfold over time, and can last for days or even weeks.
Unwind. Rejuvenate. Let Go and Be Guided