Forest Bathing sounds like something TreeGirl would be in to. After all being naked in the forest is a relaxing and cleansing experience. But there are no bars of soap or towels in this activity. In fact, forest bathing is more akin to basking in the atmosphere and the life force energy of the forest. It is both a healing practice of contemplation and multi-sensory engagement while taking a relaxing stroll through the forest. This is ecotherapy at its simplest: nature = healing. Lots of trees = even more healing. (In fact, studies show that the more biodiversity, the more health benefits.) It is a way to assist people in creating relationships with nature in a world of mass disconnection, distraction and technology addiction. Yet, it’s not the easiest thing to get oneself out of one’s busy plugged-in life outside on a trail and to simply take pleasure in one’s body being slow in nature. Thankfully, anyone can practice forest bathing, but it does take some skills, and that's where a guide comes in.
In fact, the Japanese government has, as of 2012, designated 48 official Forests for their people to walk in, as well as funding over 4 million dollars into scientific and medical research to prove the scope of possible various health benefits including: lowered blood pressure, lowered heart rate, elevated mood, lower cortisol or stress hormone levels, increased natural immune (or ‘killer’) cells and more. In other words, tests show that people feel better after taking a walk in the forest. That’s the kind of well, duh, sure, that makes sense, kind of reaction you’d get from most people who find mental, physical and spiritual rejuvenation from time spent in a forest full of living beings. The Japanese have been training forest therapists for years, and now it is spreading around the world.
As TreeGirl I wanted to learn something new about the magic of the forest, and new ways to facilitate nature connection. So I assisted in teaching the first Forest Therapy Guide Training in the US. I facilitated ecotherapy sessions in expressive arts in nature and shared my knowledge of oaks. I also learned what is needed with this type of ecotherapy: people skills, bioregional knowledge, safety skills, community relation skills, specific pedagogy, as well as knowledge of the forest therapy research that is coming out of countries around the world.