Slow down, wake up your senses and connect deeply with nature.
As human beings, we evolved in the natural world. Nature has been our home for thousands of years and it is 'hard wired' within us, as the Biophilia Hypothesis suggests.
Yet over the years we have lost our connection with nature. Many of us now live fast-paced, urban lives and reduce stress by 'relaxing' in front of a screen - which is impacting our health and well-being.
One of the ways we can combat the negative impact of our hectic, sensory-overloaded 21st century lives is to simply spend time in nature, through Forest Therapy.
What is it?
Forest Therapy is sometimes called ‘forest bathing’ or Shinrin Yoku, which translates as ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’. It is essentially a slow, gentle, guided mindful walk that enhances wellbeing through sensory connection with nature - you may like to play this short video to learn more about it.
In Japan, Shinrin Yoku is well established and plays a vital role in preventative healthcare, promoting health and well-being in a stressful world. Regular, repeated exposure to forest atmosphere has been proven to increase benefits incrementally – so the more often you walk, the greater the positive impact on your health and well-being.
I practice Nature and Forest Therapy - as established by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) - which is an evidence-based framework for supporting well-being through guided immersive walks in natural environments. The approach is holistic and draws on the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku.
Does it 'work' ... where's the science?
Most of us have experienced that just being in nature brings calmness and helps us to feel refreshed and invigorated - and science is now proving that being in nature really IS good for our physical, mental and social health and well-being. You don’t have to escape to the wilds of the deep forest to reap these benefits either - just being in urban green spaces can help us feel psychologically restored.
Research shows that spending just 15 minutes in nature is proven to lower the level of the stress hormone, cortisol – and 45 minutes in the forest showed improvements in cognitive performance. Our brain behaves differently when we are in nature - and this positively impacts how we think and feel. Spending even a short time in nature is proven to decrease stress, anxiety, depression, anger and blood pressure and increase positivity, focus, creativity, sleep and energy levels. In addition, many trees secrete natural chemicals called phytoncides to protect themselves – and science proves that when we breathe them in or absorb them through our skin they boost our immune system, fight viruses and enhance our cancer-fighting ability.
The scientific evidence is so compelling that, in some countries, medical practitioners prescribe spending time in the forest for a number of health conditions.
What can I expect on a forest therapy walk?
My Nature and Forest Therapy walks are typically two to three hours long and take place in stunning woodland or coastal locations. Based on the ANFT framework, these are not energetic ‘hikes’ or ‘interpretive walks’ where I identify what we see. Instead, we walk gently together with mindful awareness for just a short distance … connecting with nature and pausing to notice what we can see, hear, feel, smell and perhaps even taste.
I will gently guide you and offer you optional ‘invitations’ to help you slow down, wake up your senses and connect deeply with nature. This helps you to let go of everyday worries and experience a profound sense of stillness, peace and harmony. I often witness the forest stimulating other senses on my walks too - sometimes long-forgotten ones, including childlike wonder, curiosity, awe, imagination, creativity and playfulness.
When we connect deeply with nature, it can heal us from the impact of our busy, stressful lives. We also re-connect - with ourselves, with others and with the nature which surrounds us - which helps us to build positive relationships. Forest Therapy not only benefits our physical and mental health and well-being, it also enhances our social well-being and cultivates a reciprocal relationship with nature which helps us care for it and those who live in it.
Why choose me as a forest therapy guide?
Nature has always played an important role throughout my life. As a child I lived 5 minutes from sea and hills, so I grew up immersed in the mysteries and delights of the natural world. As an adult, long distance walking and running ensured I still got my regular dose of being outdoors. I still managed to get my 'nature fix' when I worked in the City - finding a green space at lunchtime to just sit and 'be' was so grounding. The profound healing benefits of being in nature have also helped me to come through some of the really ‘big’ things in life – for example, finding peace following bereavement.
As a mindfulness teacher, I began leading regular mindful walks in nature. I was invited to run weekly ‘Noticing Nature’ Walks for Kent Wildlife Trust, which I did for a year - I was delighted to witness the significant benefits to the target audience of people with mental and social health issues.
I felt drawn to deepening my experience as a guide further, so I took it to the next level by training with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) - the ‘global leaders in nature and forest therapy’. Having completed the ANFT intensive training programme, I studied for a further 6 months and competed my practicum in order to become a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide. I am the only Certified Guide in Kent and one of just a handful in the UK - and even across the whole globe there are only several hundred Guides, so I am privileged to be a part of this community.
Forest therapy for you
I offer Forest Therapy 1:1 and also for public and private groups - please contact me if you are interested in learning more.
I am currently exploring how I can bring forest therapy to my local Hospice group and also how best to connect with UK ‘social prescribing’ systems, so that I can make it accessible to those who need it most.
Forest therapy for the workplace
The positive impact to physical and mental well-being, relationship-building and sparking creativity is hugely beneficial in the workplace - and is particularly powerful when experienced by a team.
Why not let me guide you and your team through a sensory, immersive forest therapy experience in the green space at your site or office, or a nearby park or beach? A forest therapy experience is also an innovative, unique and beneficial addition to any team development meeting agenda - and a great way to utilise that lovely green space which so often surrounds offsite venues. Or we can work together to create a bespoke event for your team, incorporating forest therapy with mindfulness, creative exercises or coaching - contact me and let's explore what is possible.