Forest Therapy: Mindfulness in Nature
The practice of Forest Therapy was founded through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides, based in California. The founders of this mindful, healing and connective practice were inspired by the Japanese practice of 'Shinrin-yoku' which translates as 'forest bathing'. Research has indicated that spending time in nature not only strengthens human immune response and reduces stress, but also makes us more creative, mindful, and content in our lives. The beauty of Forest Therapy is that it connects humans and nature, so that both benefit from the renewed relationship.
What is Forest Therapy?
In the 1980s 'Shinrin-yoku' (forest bathing) was developed in Japan and is viewed as an integral part of the Japanese health care system as a way for individuals to achieve greater health and well-being in their lives. The general principle behind the practice is that it is beneficial to spend time bathing in the atmosphere of the forest. Over 40 years of research, conducted mainly in Japan, has proven countless health benefits such as boosted immune system, reduced blood pressure, reduced stress, improved mood, increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD, accelerated recovery from surgery or illness, increased energy level and improved sleep.
In 2012 Amos Clifford, inspired by the Japanese practice, founded The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT). Amos combined descriptions of Shinrin-yoku practice with his four decades of experience in wilderness guiding, Zen meditation, psychotherapy, and nature connection to begin creating a framework for Forest Therapy.
The Forest Therapy Framework
Forest Therapy means spending time in nature that invites healing interactions. The framework for the practice of Forest Therapy, following the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT) includes the following five elements.
There is a specific intention to connect with nature in a healing way. This requires mindfully moving through the landscape in ways that cultivate presence, opening all the senses, and actively communicating with the land.
It is not something to rush through. Shinrin-yoku walks are typically a kilometre or less and range in duration from two to three hours.
Healing interactions require giving generously of our attention. We encourage mindfulness through an evolving series of suggested invitations. Each invitation is crafted to help participants slow down and open our senses. As we do this we begin to perceive more deeply the nuances of the constant stream of communications rampant in any natural setting. We learn to let the land and its messages penetrate into our mind and hearts more deeply.
It’s not a one-time event. Developing a meaningful relationship with nature occurs over time, and is deepened by returning again and again throughout the natural cycles of the seasons. Like yoga, meditation, prayer, working out, and many other worthy endeavors, Shinrin-yoku is a practice. And because it is a practice, it is best to learn it from a qualified guide.
It’s not just about taking a walk in the forest. The walks are important, but there are other core routines that we can do that will help in our deepening relationship with nature, and in the exchange of health benefits between humans and the more-than-human-world. We often incorporate some of these practices in our guided walks, particularly the practices of sit spots, place tending and cross-species communication.
What to Expect on a Forest Therapy Walk
Our Forest Therapy Walks will be guided by Cataraqui Conservation's Senior Conservation Educator, Stana Luxford Oddie who is accredited by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs.
Stana will guide you on a Forest Therapy Walk, which is a gentle experience in nature. The aim is to get you out of your head and into your sensing body, to a deepened relationship with the more-than-human world. In Forest Therapy, “the guide opens the door & the forest is the therapist”. You simply need to dress for the weather (comfortable outdoor clothing, good footwear, rain gear, & add extra layers, as we move very, very slowly) and bring a water bottle.
A Forest Therapy Walk is a slow and mindful experience that can combine walking, sitting, standing or laying down. Everything is an invitation so participants are invited to do what feels most comfortable to them. We do not travel a far distance, an entire Forest Therapy Walk experience will be no longer than one kilometre.
Forest Therapy Walks are a very relaxed way of being in the forest that can last between two to three hours depending on the request of the participants. We can curate shorter (one hour) or longer walks if requested.
Everyone can benefit from Forest Therapy Walks such as, but not limited to, people recovering from illness, youth, active military, veterans, people coping with loss, students, professionals, parents, people looking to better their mental health, first responders and seniors. Anyone who is looking to de-stress, slow down, heal and connect with nature.
About Our Guide
Stana Luxford Oddie has over 20 years of experience connecting people of all ages to nature.
“I read about the concept of ‘Forest Bathing’ over two years ago, in a book called Your Brain on Nature, Selhub and Logan and I was really intrigued. It’s about taking time to immerse yourself in nature and giving yourself permission to just be in the moment. What really inspired me to do the training was the concept of being ‘truly’ present, mindful and slowing down.”
Stana graduated from Queen’s University Outdoor and Experiential Education program in 1999. Her passion is to provide opportunities for people to connect to nature. Stana is the Senior Conservation Educator for the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority and in her 19th year in her role of facilitating nature connection experiences for all ages!
“So many people are stressed and the forest really does offer everyone what they need, be it just being quiet, still and more mindful or something on an even deeper level. It’s about un-plugging from our phones, tablets, computers and re-connecting with our bodies, our senses and the natural world around us.”
Stana became an accredited ANFT Forest Therapy Guide in November 2016 and is inspired to share this healing and connective practice with the Community. Stana also holds a current certification in Wilderness First Aid.
“Stana has a beautiful leadership quality. I would recommend attending this workshop if you are looking to slow down, connect with other like-minded individuals and nature.”
“It is difficult to articulate the importance of experiencing ourselves in nature in this way. Letting nature be the teacher, and slowing down. But the experience speaks for itself.”
“Great way to ground your body and mind and escape daily stressful lives and responsibilities.”
“If you need support in connecting to nature and your inner self to your feelings and emotions and your soul nature and your peace on earth – Do this.”