The Magic of Forest Therapy

by Jomel Bajar, PT,DPT,MS

The quarantine period is still challenging to everybody, however, with the advancement of technology, everything is practically within our reach and made quarantine a little easier for most of us.

If we want to watch a good movie, we can stay at home and see what is available on Netflix. If we are hungry and we don’t want to go out, we can just order food through different food delivery apps. If we want to shop, Amazon is just a click away. Basically, everything that we can think of that can make our life easier already exists. Unfortunately, relying too much on these advancements can make us too comfortable. It can make us feel lazy to move around or go outside if we don’t need to, which is not all good for us. In fact, research has found out that the lack of sunlight, minimal movement and over-reliance on technology can give us a higher risk of depression and other related mood disorders. Fortunately, research has also been looking into ways to make us go outside and cope with the indoor blues. One of which is Forest Therapy which is also known as “Shinrin-yoku”, a research- based healing practice which promotes spending time in forested areas with the aim of promoting physical and mental health, and improving disease prevention.

Although Forest Therapy has been getting an increase in attention in the world of alternative medicine, there is not a lot of evidence available when it comes to its therapeutic effects. In hopes to strengthen the claims of its therapeutic effects, a study about the influence of Forest Therapy on Cardiovascular Relaxation was conducted by eleven students. The study called for forty eight young adult males who participated in a two- day field research. The result of the study showed that there was a big difference in their heart rate values when they were walking in a forest than when they were walking in an urban area. The mean heart rate value for the total stimuli period was found out to be significantly lower when they were forest walking compared to when they were urban walking(87.2 ± 14.5 in forest and 91.8 ± 12.6 in urban; ). Also there was a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol levels of the test subjects after they walked in a forest. This only goes to show how strong the claims are that forest therapy can reduce stress-related hormones and alleviate stressful conditions such as tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion. To add more to this, other studies also believe that forest therapy can suppress sympathetic nerve activity and improve physical condition through exercise and rehabilitation. Read more studies here

The studied benefits of forest therapy are beneficial information but the magic of forest therapy lies in its ability to open our senses to the natural world. Forest Therapy invites us to be one with nature and be present. Listening to birds, looking at the green of trees, tasting the fresh air and breathing in the fragrance of the fresh air through forest therapy allows us to dive into our sixth sense, which is our state of mind. It allows us to be calm. It allows us to be aware and mindful of ourselves and our surroundings. But considering how all of us are structured differently, not everyone would have the same experience when it comes to Forest Therapy. Forest Therapy has no boundaries and there is no prescription on what one can gain or experience from this practice. More than the idea that it focuses on a certain illness or discomfort, it focuses on ourselves and our relationship to the natural world. Forest therapy finds a way through this relationship to improve on our wellness and the wholeness of our well-being.

Studies have shown that we have never been so far detached from the natural world until today. And it doesn’t look like things would change anytime soon because by 2050, 66% of the world’s population are expected to live in cities, and the average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors. If forest therapy would be a way for us to bridge the gap, it would not hurt to try. Forest therapy, first of all, is not only done one way and in one place. We do not have to be in a forest to experience its potential benefits. Forest therapy can be done anywhere as long as there are trees like in a nearby park , for example, or in greenhouse conservatories. Forest walking is also not the only way to experience forest therapy, we can jog, meditate or do breathing exercises in the forest as long as we are making a conscious effort to connect with nature the best way we can. We can also experience forest therapy alone or with a guide. When it comes to forest therapy, there is no one way to do it. At the end of the day, we all have our own ways in finding calm and relaxation. Forest Therapy might not be for somebody but still it is a great reminder to take notice of our surroundings. Nature is more connected to us than we think. If there is one thing that forest therapy is trying to remind us is that we are also living things and we need fresh air and sunlight like trees do.

At Fe-SiO Wellness living, we try to re-create what nature intends for us to fulfill - “being one with it”. We created a sensory garden that will try to unlock the power of your five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Enjoy listening to the wind and birds singing, the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees, the rock under your feet. Look at the different greens around you and smell the fragrance of lavender, peppermint or lemon. Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. Place your hands on grass and on rocks, feel the different textures. Dip your toes in a pile of mulch. Lie down on the ground. Drink in the flavor of nature and release your sense of calmness out of your breath. Welcome yourself in a new found state of mind - you have connected with nature. A sense of peace.


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The Global Leaders in Forest Therapy Guide Training Transforming Relationships between Humans and Nature

Nature Contributes to Mental and Physical Health

"Influence of Forest Therapy on Cardiovascular Relaxation in Young Adults"