What is forest therapy?
Forest therapy revolves around guided immersion in forests with the goal of promoting mental and physical health while relaxing in nature. Recognized as a research-based public health practice, forest therapy is in itself a form of mindfulness focused on fresh air and land.
How does forest therapy work?
Leave this with a certified forest therapy guide (the International Basic Plan on Forest Therapy (ICCFT) certifies and accredits training providers and forest therapy guides). Each experience may vary, but most involve some form of slow breathing, walking, and other activities.
“We move very slowly along these trails, using all our senses to get us to the moment,” says Brenda Spitzer, certified forest therapy guide and mentor. “A forest therapy walk offers participants the opportunity to take a break from the stress of daily life, to slow down and appreciate things that can only be noticed when moving slowly,” he adds. “The key to forest therapy is not to travel many miles, but to walk through nature with intent and just take it all in.”
“As we move along the path, I offer my participants a series of invitations, which are simple suggestions of ways to use their senses to connect with nature,” Spitzer explains.
He has realized that it may be difficult to disconnect for the first 20 minutes for some people. “This is because most of us are used to moving at a fast pace and doing multiple tasks during our daily lives,” Spitzer says. “After twenty to thirty minutes, I can really notice a general slowdown among the participants.
How do forests help mental health?
Research constantly shows that almost all mental health parameters are improved by spending time in nature. Studies have shown that doing an activity of your choice, even in small blocks of time, and even in nature close to home, can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, studies seem to land 120 minutes a week (approximately 17 to 20 minutes a day) as a sweet spot for the minimum time humans “need” to be in nature.
In recent years, healthcare providers and healthcare organizations have increasingly adopted the recommendation that people strive to achieve 150 minutes of physical activity a week and that these 150 minutes can be achieved in 30-minute increments. 10 minutes, so you can adapt to your day. That said, the biggest challenge we often see is that even though people want to go out, they often don’t know where to start, where to go, or how to plan. With AllTrails, outdoor lovers can find the most suitable location and path for them, so they can focus on the healing benefits of nature, and not stress about getting lost or trying forest therapy. for the first time.
Specific studies have shown:
Twenty minutes in nature participating in a chosen activity reduces salivary stress hormones, alpha-amylase, and cortisol by more than 20% in study participants (Hunter et al, 2019) .
A 90-minute nature walk was associated with a decrease in rumination [that negative cycle of stress and worry (my definition!)] based on self-reported questionnaires and neuroimaging of the subgenual prefrontal cortex (an active region during sadness, behavioral abstinence, and depression) (Bratman et al, 2015).
A review of data from 28 papers showed that forest bathing played an important role in promoting human physiology and mental health (Wen et al, 2019).
What about bathing in the woods?
The terms forest bath and forest therapy are often used interchangeably, although it could be argued that forest bathing is a specific form of forest therapy. “Forest bath” translates directly from the term Shinrin-yoku, which was minted in the early 1980s in Japan. It is a practice where people are guided in a quiet, conscious natural experience where they are asked to focus sequentially on the various senses. In mindfulness practices, we are taught to notice and witness experiences without affection or emotion, although in the swim in the woods we foster feelings of wonder and wonder as they arise.
Forest bath /Shinrin-yoku was initially described by Drs Qing Li and Yoshifumi Miyazaki and, as they knew intuitively that this practice would be curative for their patients, they have conducted a significant amount of research over the years. Their mental health questionnaires have consistently shown that bathing in the woods improves depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and other symptoms. They have also found improvements in blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, and even levels of stress hormones in saliva such as alpha-amylase and cortisol.