Letter to the Editor


A Walk in the Forest Can Calm You Down
Submitted by Dennis Garnham -  11-5-19

What is Forest Therapy? In the US, Forest therapy is modeled after the Japanese concept of Forest bathing.

Forest Therapy is a pathway to personal health and well-being and promotes environmental and pro-social change at a societal level. Nature mobilizes the body’s innate affinity for natural environments to restore healthy physiological functions. Since humans have evolved to live in natural environments for thousands of years, it’s not surprising that our bodies require such elements for health and wellbeing. However, in recent generations we’ve shifted rapidly towards urbanized and digitized environments that do not provide our bodies with biological stimuli required for health. Forest Therapy is a method to re-introduce people to the forest and other natural environments. As people become estranged from nature, Forest Therapy becomes an increasingly important way to get people outside, so their bodies can access essential stimuli like sunlight, fresh air and organic compounds released by plants such as terpenes and phytoncides.

Forest Therapy is more than a walk in the woods. While most of the physiological benefits come from the simple exposure to the natural environment, a guided Forest Therapy walk also works to mend the damaged relationships humans have with themselves, with the concept of time, with their communities and with the more than human world. This is where a skilled guide, trained to work in partnership with the land, becomes a valuable asset.

When we slow down, with nothing preoccupying our minds, we encounter ourselves. In our daily lives, we rarely take time to slow down. On a Forest Therapy walk we put aside the identifying social markers we carry with us in the tamed world. In the forest we are our ecological selves. This identity is easily observed in the mirror of the forest. The forest illuminates how we are part of it, bound by the same principle of life that honors all beings. One of the most common revelations in participants comes from time spent with trees. No tree is perfect, they all have scars, all are damaged in some way, yet they are resilient. And they all are beautiful, each in their own unique way. This type observation often leads people towards their ecological self, towards an acknowledgment that they too are imperfect, impermanent and in a constant state of change, and their own beauty is bound to these characteristics. They focus not on knowing, but on being.

Additionally, the journey towards this deeper self may also be galvanized by a childlike sense of freedom in liminality that participants often experience during a Forest Therapy walk. Because there are no rules or constraints on the process of being during a walk, participants have the opportunity to allow their bodies to lead them. This is embodiment. In a state of embodiment, our identity becomes detached from our thoughts and becomes connected to our relationships with place and beings in the moment. When self-judgment and critical analysis is abstracted from consciousness, we begin to be ourselves naturally. Who we are when in such a state, can be surprising because, in our daily lives, we have almost no space for such expression to emerge. Most of the time we wear masks or play roles that are expected of us. On a Forest Therapy walk we take off the masks and let the wind touch our face. Some may not have felt this in decades.

Editor Note - Contact your local conservation commission or land protection agencies for any upcoming walks outdoors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Develop an attitude of Gratitude !!
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

~ Melody Beattie ~