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Forest Bathing and Hydrotherapy: Reciprocal Bliss

As our world copes with unprecedented stress, our medical systems will be overrun finding ways to help people cope, resulting in prescribing more drugs than ever before. We are at a precipice where as humans, we have to figure this out. We’re going to have to source a more accessible, simpler and bio-supportive system that is already all around us. 

I’m going to propose that the solution has been right outside our door all along.

And I intend to remind you of the healing power of nature as a tool to not only get us on the path back to health but as a means for peace and deep connection to the planet.

We would probably all agree that spending time in nature makes us feel better. Though spending time in nature is in our DNA and was enjoyed by all our ancestors, in 1982 the Japanese government coined the term Shinrin-yoku, which translates as Forest Bathing. Forest Bathing, also called Nature and Forest Therapy, was a response to a public health crisis – high levels of stress at work and a worrying spike in rates of auto-immune disease and suicide. It is a practice of developing a deepening relationship of reciprocity, in which the forest and the practitioner find a way to work together that supports the wholeness and wellness of each. In Forest Therapy, there is a clearly defined sequence of guided events that provide structure to the experience, while embracing the many opportunities for creativity and serendipity offered by the forest and the guide. Forest Therapy is open-ended; there is no prescription for what a person “should” experience, or what benefits they “should” receive. 

Forest Bathing deepens the effects of time in nature in a way that invites healing interactions.  Recent robust research indicates that forest bathing can be effective in reducing negative mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, anger. 

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased in test subjects after a walk in the forest, when compared with a control group of subjects who engaged in walks within a laboratory or urban setting. By significantly mitigating the production of cortisol, Forest Bathing can lower blood pressure and alleviate headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, and arthritis, among many other ailments. Some preliminary research is even suggesting possible anti-cancer benefits. And often, it leads to better sleep.

Nature prescriptions were named one of the top eight global wellness trends in 2019. And it’s no surprise—research shows that kids and adults who spend more time in nature are happier and healthier. On November 30, 2020, the PaRx Prescription programme was launched in Canada. PaRx is breaking ground as Canada’s first national, evidence-based nature prescription program.  Inhaling deeply for twenty minutes under a tree can restore calmness, clarity, serenity and peace, and three hours of a combined Forest Bathing walk and hydrotherapy can offer improved feelings of happiness, wellness and energy for up to five days.

At Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain, the self-guided Forest Bathing Trail opened in the spring of 2019. Scandinave had a beautiful forested area running between a pond and a small wetland just outside the immediate Spa facilities. Recognizing the mutually enhancing connection of combining hydrotherapy with Forest Bathing, Scandinave hired me to design the trail. The Facilities and Maintenance team spread mulch, making it inviting for barefoot walking, tweaked the trail, trimming branches, placing logs for sitting or lying under the forest canopy and installed numbered posts to correspond with a brochure, available in the Spa.  Guests now accept written invitations from the brochure to help engage more deeply with the natural landscape through all their senses. 

Before or after wandering on the Forest Bathing paths, guests can literally immerse themselves in the healing power of nature, deepening their experience, as they slip into the hot, warm or cool pools of the Spa. Bathing in hot springs can release the blockage in the flow of energy in the body that many believe is the root cause of all illnesses. So, ending a Forest Bath walk with time at Scandinave Spa can offer healing benefits and improved feelings of wellness that linger for three to five days.

Grounding, too, or walking barefoot on sand or grass or softly mulched soil that is found in Scandinave Spa and on the Forest Bathing Trail, stimulates receiving a dose of the earth’s healing powerful electrons through one’s feet. This grounding allows the body to align more deeply and in greater harmony with nature.

Since the creation of the Forest Bathing trail, it has been well used by Guests as well as Scandinave staff. Management has noted that “the impact the trail had on our business was to better educate Guests on the importance of disconnecting from noise, technology and activity to connect with nature, self and wellness… we have seen an increased appreciation and respect for our outdoor spa experience.”

Do you believe in the healing power of the forest? Do you imagine a path highlighting and enhancing the natural gifts of your property, in all seasons, beckoning guests into the trees near your facility? Do you yearn to share the hidden spots on your property that invite deeper engagement of and connection to nature through all your senses? Do you wonder how a Forest Bathing Trail will enhance your property, expand and deepen your client experience and reflect your orientation to wellness in nature? In these times of huge change, it seems the earth, too, is in transition and is offering us all a global invitation to slow down and to notice what is closest to us. Immersing in nature nurtures clarity, creativity, wonder, rejuvenation and an infusion of peaceful calm. This is Forest Bathing.


Beth Foster 
ANFT Nature and Forest Therapy Guide
Trail Certification Consultant
forestbathingwithbeth.com
beth@forestbathingwithbeth.com
(1)705 828 3525

“The forest is the therapist; the guide opens the doors.”

Resources:

Forest Bathing-How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness—Dr. Qing Li, New York: Penguin Random House, 2018.

the Nature Fix—Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative—Florence Williams, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2017.

PaRx Prescriptions— A Prescription for Nature

https://www.parkprescriptions.ca Resources for patients and practitioners

The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (the Association that trained and certified me as a Guide and Trail Certification Consultant)

https://www.natureandforesttherapy.earth/

Beth Foster

Beth delights in discovering safe pathways into the healing woods. She has a Master’s of Education and is certified as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide and Trail Certification Consultant by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Organization. She is honoured to guide others to an awareness, understanding and deeper appreciation of the healing power of nature while honouring the connection between humans and the earth. Beth lives in Barrie, Ontario and can be found in the woods or at forestbathingwithbeth.com

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