In this addition of the Folk U Talk Show, Sobhana Dilani Hippola, certified forest therapy guide, joins host Manda Aufochs Gillespie to discuss forest therapy and its many benefits. This was part of the Nature is Good For You series on CKTZ done in partnership with Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI), Folk University, and the Cortes radio partners Cortes Currents and Cortes Community Radio.
(Should you get so inspired……In these times of physical distancing, Sobhana has also offered us an adapted guided forest therapy walk recording which you can download here https://www.friendsofcortes.org/Cortes-Nature-MP3/GuidedForestTherapyWalk.mp3 or visit https://www.friendsofcortes.org/education/nature-is-good-for-you-on-cktz/) and take with you to practice on your own in a forest near you. The recorded walk takes approximately 2 hours to complete. Before you head out on the walk, please listen to the first few minutes of the recording where Sobhana lists some practical matters and things you’ll need to bring with you on the walk. If you’re wearing earphones, please make sure to have one ear in for the recording and one ear out so you can hear the sounds of nature around you!
What is Forest Therapy?
Forest therapy, otherwise known as “forest bathing” or “Shinrin-Yoku”, is a Japanese-inspired healing practice of bathing in the atmosphere of the forest to receive its medicinal and therapeutic benefits. It is unlike a traditional hike where we may have a certain destination or fitness goal, or a naturalist walk where we are learning all the names and attributes of the plants and creatures that we come across. A forest therapy walk is an intentionally slow, quiet, meditative, sensory-based experience where we are exploring our relationship with nature through all of our senses, really feeling the forest with all of our being. Instead of trying to “go somewhere” or “learn something”, the aspiration is simply to “arrive here”, in intimate connection with this place and this present moment.
The practice of Shinrin-Yoku began in Japan in the 1980s when the country was experiencing a tech boom and its citizens were spending a lot more time indoors in front of their computers. The Government of Japan started to notice a significant increase in societal stress, cancer and auto-immune diseases and began researching ways to quell these trends. They began to research what happens to humans when we spend extended periods of time in forested environments and they discovered a wide range of benefits. Research has discovered that trees keep themselves healthy and safe by showering themselves in chemicals called “phytoncides”. Humans have a special reaction when we bathe in these same phytoncides: we produce special white blood cells called NK cells (natural killer cells) which play an important role in our body’s immune function, killing off certain viruses and even cancerous cells in the body. Forest bathing is also effective in reducing cortisol levels, heart rates and blood pressure and in stimulating greater activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Beyond the science, we have also seen that forest bathing can awaken a host of other benefits such as increased mental clarity, heightened creativity, sharper intuition and a more stable sense of emotional well-being. It can lift depressive mood disorders and inspire spiritual awakenings. Nature’s medicine comes in many forms.
It’s a Relationship
The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT), founded by Amos Clifford, has created a unique model of forest therapy that aspires to repair humanity’s long neglected relationship with the more-than-human world. After many years of vision fasts, wilderness guiding, and social repair work in his communities, Amos Clifford began to see how our relationship with the natural world around us affects and reflects all of our other relationships in this life. Inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, he designed the ANFT model with the guiding principle that: “the forest is the therapist; the guide opens the door”. The ANFT now has over 850 guides in over 55 countries around the world. A typical guided forest therapy walk is approximately 2-4 hours long. If you have the opportunity to go on a guided walk with a trained ANFT guide anywhere in the world, you will experience a standard sequence that is intended to help participants slow down, awaken their senses, and reconnect with the more-than-human world. The medicine of the forest is a complex and synergistic wellness experience - healing for the body, mind and spirit.
Become part of the Wood Wide Web
Have you heard about the wood wide web? Part-time Cortesian, Merlin Sheldrake has helped coin this term about the mysterious way that trees and forests are able to communicate, share nutrients, and exist in intimate connection. Learn more about this at https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/the-secrets-of-the-wood-wide-web or get Merlin’s new book, Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures, at Marnie’s or your other favourite book seller:
Miranda Cross discussed mulching, wetland restoration, and more about what is happening in her garden during this week’s gardening section.
For more information:
- Contact Sobhana: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Association of Nature & Forest Therapy (ANFT) website: https://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/
- Amos Clifford’s book: “Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature”