The benefits of forest therapy
Forest therapy is an evidence-based therapeutic practice that connects people to natural environments through gentle sensory based guided mindfulness exercises.
It’s not the same as taking the dog out or identifying species, it’s about connecting to nature and moving into feeling compassion for the natural world. I facilitate a series of group and individual meditation exercises, designed to slow you down, turn off the chatter in the mind and bring your focus to the present moment. Continued nature connection results in a better sense of purpose, a sense of being part of something bigger, and feeling warmth and kindness to others. As you start to connect to nature, and feel compassion for the natural world, your behaviours change to be more pro-environmental.
Forest therapy is sometimes called forest bathing but there is no swimming involved! It comes from the well established practice called Shinrin-yoku in Japan, which literally translates as ‘bathing in the atmosphere of the forest’ – hence the ‘bathing’.
In the video above I talk about some of the important benefits of forest therapy.
So many of us are leading hectic lives, and suffering with overwhelm, anxiety and stress on a day to day basis as a result. I guess that at least some of this resonates with you?
There is growing scientific evidence from the UK that proves that just 2 hours of forest therapy results in improvements in both physical and emotional health. Results from my early sessions corroborate these findings (I asked participants to complete the recognised psychological rating POMS test (Profile of Mood States) before and after the walk).
Some of the key PROVEN health benefits are listed below:
- Reduced stress
- Boosted immune systemthanks to phytoncides emitted by trees*
- Boost your mood; reduced depression, anxiety and ADHD
- Improved emotional wellbeing
- More energy (people say they are ‘raring to go’ after a session!)
There are lots of other benefits too, such as enhanced sleep, focus, more feelings of gratitude and emotional resilience and a heightened ability to feel trust, empathy and kindness towards others.
* Specifically attributed to inhalation of the essential oils emitted from trees (mainly conifers and oak) called Phytoncides (note that this link will take you to the scientific report on a separate site).
From a personal perspective, the practice has fundamentally changed who I am; I can never ‘un-feel’ what I have experienced on my nature connection journey (not that I would want to). And to help others activate their senses, tune in and connect to nature and process through blocked emotions or difficult memories is an incredible gift. There is so much in nature that brings a deep joy and delight and I feel so grateful to have found this now.
I run sessions for adults, families and organisations in Hampshire and Berkshire. Contact me if you’d like to find out more or make a booking.