BENEFITS FOUND IN NATURE
Forest Therapy. Shinrin-Yoku. Forest Bathing. Many names for the medicine of being in the forest. Forest Therapy, also known as “Shinrin-Yoku" or "Forest Bathing," refers to the practice of spending time in forested areas to enhance health, wellness, and happiness. The practice focuses on the idea that spending time simply breathing in the natural world is beneficial and healing.
Consider how you felt the last time you spent the day outside. It may not be essential to know the why and how behind the effects, but we know we "feel good" - feel more positive, more ready to take on challenges, and more authentic - after spending time in nature. Scientific evidence now supports what those of us drawn to be in nature already intuitively know - spending time in nature benefits the body, mind, and soul.
Here are just a few of the examples of the powerful effects:
Lower blood pressure and cortisol (stress) levels
Inhaling phytoncides from forest air increases the number of natural killer (NK) cells–a type of white blood cell that supports the immune system and is associated with a lower risk of cancer and plays a role in combating infections and autoimmune disorders and reduces inflammation, which contributes to a wide range of ailments.
Reduced activity in an area of the brain linked to depression and anxiety
Improved memory and sleep
...SMARTER. STRONGER. HEALTIER. HAPPIER...
Spending 20 minutes or more in nature can improve concertation, cognition, and memory. Exercise and physical activity in green spaces offer even more benefits than similar activities when done inside. Walking and being in nature can improve heart health, increase circulation, reduce blood pressure, and boost the immune system. Being present with the sights and sounds of nature promotes well-being, reduces stress, and improves mood. Frequent exposure can reduce anxiety and depression and influence how one perceives stress.
On Nature and Forest Therapy walks, people have many experiences, some of which they feel are significant, even profound. The benefits are individual - each person experiences nature in their own way - and they are endless - worth exploring, don't you think? Nature and Forest Therapy is built on the idea that the forest is the therapist; the guide opens the doors to the senses. Guides are trained in the skills and perspectives needed to be supportive witnesses to whatever nature offers.
It is true that being out in nature, slowing down, and connecting to our senses can offer benefits. But it can be difficult for us to hold space for ourselves and offer the room to really disconnect from everything else and be fully present. That is the role of the guide - to pick a place conducive to the experience, hold the space for people to have their own experience, offer different ways to connect in a natural, direct way, and walk with you from beginning to end.
You don't need a guide to connect to nature's benefits. Set aside some time to tune in and find a spot to sit - at a local park, your backyard, your favorite outdoor space - and give yourself permission to do nothing but notice what is around you. Drop your need to label or link things to our internal stories. Just be, use your senses, and let the natural world and its gifts unfold around you for about 20 minutes. What you experience may surprise you.
Scientific evidence now supports what those of us who are drawn to be in nature intuitively know - spending time in nature benefits the body, mind, and soul. If you are like me and still like to see the data, here are some recent peer-reviewed journal articles that support the effects of forest therapy and nature connection:
This is an exciting, growing area of research. I will update this section with new research that I have reviewed as it continues to become available.