There are many words we humans use to point to the experience of becoming fully present and connected to our natural surroundings…
- Shinrin Yoku (森林浴) by the Japanese,
- Forest Therapy in many Western places including Australia,
- Forest Bathing in the United States,
- Mandi Embun by the Malaysian,
- Waldtherapie by the German,
- Sanlimyok (산림욕) by the Korean,
- Sēnlín liáofǎ (森林療法) by the Chinese and Taiwanese, and
- Surely many more.
Have you ever been walking through the park or on a hike, and felt a sense of ease, a sense of connection to the place, or perhaps a sense of being part of something bigger? What words do you use to describe that mental, emotional, and physical experience?
In my own words, Forest Therapy is about connecting to the present moment in nature spaces. Tuning in to the way nature interacts with our five senses comes with slowing down mentally and physically, and finding a sense of calmness. This is so vital in a day and age with so much stimulation, busy-ness and distractions from nature.
Other ways this practice is described include…
“Forest Therapy is an evidence-based Public health practice. Guided Forest Therapy walks combine a specific blend of complementary physical and mental exercises in suitable forest surroundings leading to a lower heart beat, blood pressure and stress levels while, at the same time, the immune system, breathing and the overall physical and mental fitness and agility are strengthened.”
Kotte, D., Li, Q, Shin, W.S. & Michalsen, A. (eds.) (2019). International Handbook of Forest Therapy. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK; Cambridge Scholars Publishing | See more here
“Forest Therapy refers to the practice of spending time in forested areas for the purpose of enhancing health, wellness, and happiness. The practice follows the general principle that it is beneficial to spend time bathing in the atmosphere of the forest. We mean spending time in nature in a way that invites healing interactions. There is a long tradition of this in cultures throughout the world. It’s not just about healing people; it includes healing for the forest, river, desert, or whatever environment you are in.”
“Forest Bathing is a health promoting, salutogenic, nature connection practice that aims to enhance well-being, relieve stress, and encourage relaxation. It is underpinned by mindfulness principles, encouraging: the opening of the senses to the forest atmosphere; slowly walking through the forest; inhaling the forest air; and fostering an emotional connection to the landscape. It engages in an effortless attention.”
What is a Forest Therapy Guide?
So, what role does a Forest Therapy Guide play in Forest Therapy experiences? A guide provides a bridge for you to enter into the space of mindful connection with nature. You can be your own guide. Take yourself out to a nature space and gently allow your awareness to settle onto only what you can see, hear, feel, smell, and perhaps taste in that moment. Gently draw your breaths more deeply and slowly. Take yourself on a wander and absorb the experience of every step.
Being your own guide requires discipline, though. Managing your own distractions and way through the forest may interfere with your level of presence and relaxation. Having someone else there to guide you, hold the space for presence, and ensure your journey will be a safe one can release your mind from those concerns and really let it relax and receive the experience. Many participants on my walks reflect on the ease with which they relax when they can just follow along and ‘enjoy the ride’ so to speak. If you walk with a trained guide, they can teach you many new and interesting nature connection activities that you may not consider on your own, unless you take the time to research and plan out your Forest Therapy session on your own.
If your connection with nature or mindfulness practices has been hindered by a lack of motivation or not knowing what to do, then wandering with a Forest Therapy Guide can really help. You’ll be gently guided to use everything you’ve got already – the five senses – to calm down, come back to nature and find the intrinsically healing properties there.
Forest Therapy Guide