“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
~ Gary Snyder
Why Shinrin Yoku /Nature- and Forest Therapy?
Deep inside we all know that spending time in nature makes us feel good. Unfortunately however, it is a fact that we spend much less time in nature in comparison to our previous generations.
Even though it seems as if through our smartphone we are connected to the whole world, our connection with nature often seems to be far away. As a result, we miss all sorts of healing effects that nature has to offer us. We are experiencing Nature Deficit Disorder: complaints caused by a lack of being in nature, our natural habitat.
Based on their concerns about this phenomenon, the Japanese Ministry of Forestry introduced the term Shinrin Yoku in 1982: literally translated as “forest bathing – bathing in the atmosphere of the forest“.
Since its introduction in Japan, scientific research has been conducted in countries such as Korea and Finland around the subject of “why we feel so good in nature”.
In Japan, designated Shinrin Yoku trails have been set up, supported by specifically trained staff to guide walks and to further investigate the measurable results of time in nature.
Some of the already measured positive effects are:
- lower blood pressure
- increased heart rate variability
- lower cortisol- and adrenaline (stress hormones)
- calming the sympathic system (figfht-or-flight)
- reinforcement of the parasympathic system (rest-and-repair)
- reduction of tension, anxiety, anger, fatigue, confusion
- thoughts become clear
- improved concentration
- boosting creativitity
- a positive effect on sleep, by a decrease in stress
A specific discovery is the effect of phytoncides. By inhaling these natural aromas – produced by trees to protect themselves against insects and germs – our body is urged to create so-called NK cells; Natural Killer cells. These white blood cells have an important role in our immune system, because of their fight against viruses and cancer cells in our body.
What’s a walk like? Do I need a guide?
An important aspect of a Shinrin Yoku walk is “slowing down“. In times where everything should be even faster tomorrow than today, this has become a true art in itself. Walking together with a guide can give you the extra support you need to find your own pace again. Therefore, distance is not a goal in these walks. By slowing down, we can notice a lot of things that we would just pass by in other circumstances.
During a Shinrin Yoku walk you will be given a series of invitations, these are different ways to open your senses. You always have the choice to get started with the invitation, or to do something else that feels right for you. This gives you opportunities to connect with nature in your personal way. At different times you get the chance to share your experience with the group, if you wish to do so. In this way we are not only inspired by nature, but also by each other.
Shinrin Yoku is based on the principle “The forest is the therapist – the guide opens the doors“; every invitation is therefore an opportunity to discover for yourself what the forest has to offer.
The walk is closed with a moment of drinking tea together. We drink a tea based on local plants, to literally connect with nature / the forest.
As a Forest Therapy Guide trained by the ANFT (Association of Nature and Forest Therapy), I look forward to connecting to nature together with you.
Where and when?
“To be at one with Nature, is to be at one with yourself.”