Forest Therapy is a practice that supports health and wellness through guided immersion in forests and other environments to promote the well-being of both people and the land and to help them reconnect with nature or establish a relationship with nature. It is inspired by Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of “Forest Bathing.”
In Forest Bathing, people spend time in forested areas to enhance health, wellness, and happiness and to ease anxiety and depression. In Forest Therapy, people are guided through a clearly defined sequence of invitations to slow down, allow the senses to open, and experience nature in a different sort of way. This supports the relational nature of the participant and nature. These walks are typically very short and slow and fit for all ages and physical conditions. The guide is not a therapist, but facilitates the connection with the forest which is truly the therapist.
Invitations are open-ended and non-prescriptive. There is no expectation for what participants should experience. Rather, participants spend time in silence, listening and feeling in a quiet and accepting, non judgmental space.
Reasons to do Forest Therapy:
The improvement of human health. People are more stressed, anxious, and depressed and have more chronic health conditions. Forest Therapy provides a pathway for people to remember how to immerse themselves in nature to rest from all that consumes them in their daily lives.
A greater sense of connectedness and relationship with themselves, each other, nature and time. In addition, a heartfelt, embodied relationship with nature naturally leads to a love of nature and recognition that we are nature too.
More about Association of Nature and Forest Therapy:
ANFT, founded in 2012 by M. Amos Clifford, combines elements of Shinrin-yoku with Clifford’s four decades of experience in wilderness guiding, Zen meditation, psychotherapy, educational consulting, and nature connection. His emphasis has been on the relational aspects of Forest Therapy.
A few links to research on Forest Therapy benefits:
1. A website:
Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health, New York Department of Conservation: dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html
2. A book:
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, by Florence Williams (see the Resources section in the back of the book for a list of other recommended reading)
3. Published research:
Shinrin-yoku (Forest bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review, Margaret M.Hansen,* Reo Jones and Kirsten Tocchini. Academic Editors Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Hiromitsu Kobayashi, Sin-Ae Park, and Chorong Song: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580555/