Forest Therapy

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Forest Therapy is an open ended practice following a standard sequence, that allows individuals to connect with nature, and bring themselves to the true essence of their being.  It is a practice of developing a meaningful relationship between both nature, and the practitioner, that supports overall wellness and reciprocity.  Forest therapy is very slow paced, more so than many are used to.  Because of this, the mind and the body have the opportunity to be in the same space simultaneously, bringing awareness to the present moment.  When we are present, our bodies respond to natural surroundings, our internal systems slow down, and we begin to heal.  Proven scientific health benefits of humans spending time with nature have been the focus of many researchers and medical professionals; still, the relationships between humans, nature and trees have been widely practiced worldwide for thousands of years. 

             

The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs is the most experienced global leader currently promoting the practice of Forest Therapy.  The practice was founded by the Associations' leader Amos Clifford.  Forest Therapy is inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku which translates to forest bathing.

Here are some of the reported benefits of forest bathing:

  • lowering blood pressure

  • reducing the production of the stress hormone

  • reducing stress

  • reducing anxiety

  • calming of the nervous system

  • increasing ones creativity and decision making abilities

  • helping to combat depression

  • fostering healthy and meaningful relationships with nature and each other

  • increasing sleep functioning 

  • inducing feelings of curiosity, wonder and gratitude

  • assisting with the recovery process of illness or surgery 

  • improving overall mood and well-being

  • increasing the production of Natural Killer cell

 

What are Natural Killer Cells?

 

Natural Killer Cells are white blood cells that are a part of our bodies' immune response.   They roam the body and seek to destroy cancer and other immune conditions.

How does this happen exactly?

When we breathe in fresh, forest air, we are breathing in the phytoncides that trees and plants diffuse to protect themselves from fungus and other attacking organisms.  Phytoncides have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties which help plants fight disease.  So, when we inhale these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the production of our NK cells.

 

What is Forest Therapy?

What to Expect on a Walk

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Forest Therapy consists of a series of sensory invitations provided by a certified guide.  Each invitation is offered in 15 to 20 minute periods.  A walk has anywhere from 5-8 invitations on average.  A Forest Therapy walk typically lasts between 2 and 3 hours allowing the practitioner to tap into the benefits. The invitations are not exercises or assignments and are completely open ended which allows participants to move through each one in a way that feels right for each individual.  There is no right or wrong way to experience forest therapy.  Following each invitation, participants are given the opportunity to voluntarily share what they've noticed.  Many individuals who have experienced a walk report having profound experiences.

Important to note:

  • Forest Therapy is extremely slow paced.  One should not expect the walk to be comparable to a hike.  

  • Forest Therapy is not physical exercise making it widely accessible to anyone.

  • Forest Therapy walks may not be longer that half a kilometer in length and in some cases may stay in the same area.

  • Forest Therapy can be experienced in most weather conditions, so having appropriate clothing is truly essential.  One will not generate a lot of body heat as there is not a lot of physical exertion.

  • Forest Therapy is for everyone.

Why Hire a Guide

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The guide offers sensory invitations to allow the participants ways to engage and connect with nature.  Individuals who are often in nature, may wonder if they are already practicing forest therapy, but when they have been guided through a walk, realize perhaps they are actually hiking or walking.  Individuals who don't regularly spend time in nature, have a safe way to explore.

How else can a guide support you:

  • The guide sets the pace to allow the group to move slowly.

  • The guide keeps track of the time so participants can truly immerse themselves in the experience without being conscious of time.

  • The guide facilitates sharing opportunities to allow participants to voluntarily open up about what they have noticed.

  • The guide maintains the safety of the group and holds a current wilderness and remote first aid certificate.