what is forest therapy?
Forest therapy is a research-based framework for supporting wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments.
Based on the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku, or "forest bathing," guided forest therapy walks allow us to spend time in nature in a way that many of us haven't in a very long time, if ever. By awakening our embodied senses, these walks invite healing interactions through deep nature connection and human connection.
Though the practice of guided forest bathing in this form is relatively new, nature connection practices have been present in cultures the world over throughout history - when we are still, our need to be connected to the world around us can be felt deeply in our bodies and spirits.
forest therapy is an open invitation
the health benefits
Numerous studies have demonstrated a wide array of health benefits, especially in the neurological, cardiovascular, and immune systems. Research over the last 10 years indicates that time spent in forested environments can:
+ Lower heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels
+ Increase heart rate variability
+ Boost immune response
+ Improve mood, memory, & cognition
+ Kick-start creativity
there is no wrong way to "do" forest therapy
why do i need a guide
A Forest Therapy Guide facilitates safe, gentle walks, providing invitations that create opportunities to connect with nature through the awakened and embodied senses. A forest bathing walk by a trained ANFT Guide follows a standard sequence. Each walk begins by intentionally awakening and orienting the senses to the present time and place, followed by a series of connective invitations - often influenced by the physical place and the beings that inhabit it - that allow us to enter liminal space, where connection with the natural world comes intuitively. After each invitation, the group comes together to share what they are noticing, a practice that encourages human connection and cultural repair - a way to bear witness to another's experience. A walk ends with the threshold of incorporation: a wild tea ceremony to mark the end of liminality, and a return to the tame world.
Forest therapy walks are not hikes in the traditional sense. An entire walk is typically 2 to 4 hours in duration and often covers no more than a mile. In that short distance, most people experience contact with nature in a much deeper way than they ever have prior to the walk. On forest therapy walks, people have a wide range of experiences, some of which they feel are significant - even profound. Guides are trained in the skills and perspectives needed to be supportive witnesses of these experiences.
During these walks people experience the therapeutic power of the forest. The forest itself is the therapist. By slowing people down and facilitating sensory experiencing, guides open the doorways through which the forest can accomplish its healing work.