Forest therapy or “forest bathing” comes from the Japanese term “shinrin-yoku” which translates as “taking in the forest through our senses.” In the 1980s, as many people in Japan were moving from more rural to urban environments, largely for indoor-based technical jobs, people began spending time in the forest to help counterbalance the negative effects of this increased time indoors- things like mental and job burnout, physical health effects and illness and overall stress.
As the practice grew in Japan and spread further, scientific research began to confirm these health benefits of forest bathing. Studies found people who participated experienced decreased heart rates, blood pressure and overall stress as well as increased ability to concentrate, improved mood and creativity.
In forest therapy, we learn to be in the present moment, in nature. We awaken our senses as we sit and walk in natural settings. In addition to the benefits of this, the trees themselves provide health benefits for us. You may be able to call to mind the distinct smell of certain trees- like cedars and pines. These represent a special set of compounds, called phytoncides, that trees give off as part of their immune system response to the world around them. They help the trees defend against pests and pathogens, but they also boost our immune system when we inhale them, through increasing Natural Killer (NK cells.)
A forest therapy walk is designed to incorporate these benefits in a mindful, sensory-engaging way. We begin by awakening our senses, then respond to simple invitations that help us engage with nature. There’s no right or wrong way to forest bathe, and the role of the guide is to help you use your time to relax, be present in the moment and enjoy the benefits of nature. There are times of optional sharing and forest therapy always ends with tea.
If you’d like to schedule a forest therapy walk (in person or by zoom,) or are interested in more information, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.