What is Forest Therapy?
Shinrin-yoku (Forest Bathing)
Forest Therapy is a research-based practice for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments. The decades old practice originated in Japan and is known as shinrin-yoku, which literally translates to “taking in the forest” or “forest bathing”.
Studies have demonstrated a wide array of health benefits, especially in the cardiovascular and immune systems, and for stabilizing and improving mood and cognition.
There is a strong body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the health benefits of the practice of Forest Bathing like the 2017 review by Margaret Hansen published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health – Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State of the Art review creativity and focus.
Forest Therapy is a practice. It is open-ended; there is no prescription for what a person “should” experience, or what benefits they “should” receive. Instead, it is a practice of developing a deepening relationship of reciprocity, in which the forest and the practitioner find a way to work together that supports the wholeness and wellness of each.
Why Forest and Nature Therapy?
Boosted immune function
Trees emit protective molecules into the air against harmful microorganisms called phytoncides, which boost the NK cells (natural killers) of our own immune system, reducing the risk of cancer-like diseases in the long run.
According to Stephen Kaplan, that put forward the Attention Restoration Theory, involuntary attention requires no mental effort, it just comes naturally. This is the kind of attention we use when we are in nature. The soothing sights and sounds give our mental resources a break, allowing our minds to wander, to reflect and therefore restore our capacity to think more clearly
The world seems to be in an unidentifiable rush to nowhere. It can be hard to slow down and we no longer know how to stand still. Walking with a certified Forest therapy guide can help you feel more comfortable and find the right environment to fit your needs.
Improved cardiovascular and respiratory health
According to several medical studies, walking in, sitting in, or simply viewing a forest environment can help reduce blood pressure, thereby reducing the strain on your heart and blood vessels and reducing your risk for heart attack or stroke.
Reduction in stress and depression
Research shows that the level of cortisol in the blood (the stress-marker hormone) decreases from the first minutes spent in the forest, and that the effect lasts over time.
Reciprocity and relationship
The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy values the incredible number of pro-environmental and pro-social benefits that can arise when people become connected to and more aware of their relationship with nature. These benefits are not confined to the world of humans; they extend inservice of the health and wellbeing of the entire biosphere.
"I highly recommend this experience. It brought me peace in seeing the challenges nature endures - yet it still thrives and is beautiful. It was a wonderful experience."
Trish Stuart-Forest therapy walk October 2021