The practice of shinrin-yoku started in Japan in the 1980s. It was developed to fight stress-related diseases of the mind and body. This was especially critical as more people were spending their lives in urban areas and indoors.
Early research showed that the practice could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, improve concentration, and increase immune system functioning. This led the Japanese government to sponsor shinrin-yoku programs as part of the country’s health-care program. The government also established specially designed parks for the practice.
Nature and forest therapy is a research-based framework. It supports healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments. It’s a guided practice of deliberately slowing down and enhancing mindfulness while taking time to wander, notice, and inquire.
The practice is an opportunity to connect with self and the natural world. It slows us down and engages the five basic senses – sight, touch, sound, taste, and smell. But it also involves up to eight other senses outside of our everyday, normal awareness.
Nature and forest therapy is widely practiced as a public-health initiative and preventative medicine. It’s recognized as an evidence-based, cost-effective way to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase immune system function, and shorten recovery time.
The practice is not a hike – you don’t go that far or that fast. Even though it’s sometimes called forest bathing, it doesn’t involve taking off your clothes or getting wet.
Nature and forest therapy isn’t a nature talk about botany or geology. It’s not a deep-woods wilderness hike, nor is it clinical therapy or a counseling session.
The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for intense physical activity and is often referred to as our fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system has the opposite effect – it relaxes the body and slows many high-energy functions. Research shows both of these systems benefit from spending time in natural and forest environments.
Doctors found that hospital patients with bedside windows looking out at trees healed faster. They required less pain medication and had fewer postsurgical complications than those who had a view of nothing or a brick wall.
Participants are likely to experience a range of mental benefits and learn how to cultivate meaningful mind-body connections in the natural world. At the very least, most participants report feeling a heightened sense of calm and relaxation. Benefits will vary for each participant, but nature and forest therapy may also address:
Liminality, or liminal space, is defined as the time between “what was” and “what is next.” You could also say it’s a state of being between what is known and what is unknown. Liminality is often where personal transformation occurs.
The framework of a session combines structure with freedom of expression and creativity. No two walks are ever the same.
At Rewylded, all of our walks are led by a certified nature and forest therapy guide. These guides are trained over six-months to follow a scope of practice and a set of professional standards.
Sessions are designed for participants of all fitness levels and physical abilities. We proactively work to ensure everyone has a safe experience. With that in mind, our guides are certified in CPR and wilderness first aid.
Each walk is different, but rooted in the idea that individuals already have a connection to nature. Our guides help them find their unique way of bringing it forth.
Nature and forest therapy sessions include a combination of sitting in one place and walking at a pace that’s much slower than normal. Throughout the walk, the guide invites participants to engage their senses through guided activity. Each of these invitations can last between 10 and 20 minutes.
After each invitation, participants come together in a circle to share their nature-connection experiences. It’s an environment that encourages deep listening and inclusivity.
Sharing is an important aspect of nature and forest therapy. It helps participants overcome feelings of isolation. Witnessing other participant’s observations and experiences also increases awareness and connection.
Walks always end with a tea ceremony. Participants enjoy light snacks and tea foraged from native plants. They also share their experiences and bring the walk to a close.
Sessions last from two to three hours. Participants typically walk a mile or less.
Above all else, you can expect safe, meaningful interaction with nature and other participants
If you wish. At various times during a public session, the guide will encourage you to share your experience with the group. But this is not required. Many participants gain peace and balance by sharing their encounters with nature.
You can also have a private walk. See Services & Pricing for more information.