Shinrin-Yoku: Self-Restoration Through Forest Therapy
During the pandemic when schools, stores and offices were closed down, the outdoors became my refuge. The park across the street from where I live became my second home where I walked the dog, ate lunch, worked on my laptop and called friends and family.
No matter where we are in our lives, we innately know spending time outdoors is good for us – we feel better when we do it. When we plan vacations, we naturally think of outdoor destinations – parks, lakes, the ocean, or mountains.
What’s interesting is that there’s a growing body of scientific research that tells us why we automatically choose the outdoors when we need a break and restoration:
- Research has produced strong evidence of the relationship between exposure to nature, and the positive impact on our mental and physical health.
- Medical and behavioral clinicians are joining Park RX – a national program where prescriptions are written for time outdoors before writing prescriptions for medication.
- Exposure to the outdoors can help our emotional state, reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, anger. Our physical health can also benefit, generating higher levels of immunity from phytoncides emitted by trees, a reduction in cortisol levels (stress hormone), our blood pressure and pulse. Just 120 cumulative minutes per week is the recommended amount of time spent outdoors to generate measurable improvements.
- When we don’t have time to get outside, bringing nature indoors with plants, flowers and even images of nature, enhances our productivity, enthusiasm and focus. Hospital patients have lower stress levels when flowers are present, and they heal faster with a view of the outdoors.
In Japan, the practice of spending time outside became formalized with the creation of Shinrin-Yoku. The term Shinrin-Yoku is literally translated as Forest Bathing or Forest Therapy – meaning to bathe in the restorative, naturally-occuring elements of nature (with your clothes on).
During the 1980s when Japan’s culture shifted from an agriculture to a technology-base culture, medical costs from stress-related illnesses were soaring. Medical
practitioners encouraged professionals to take breaks in local parks and forests, which ultimately produced significant reductions in stress-related illnesses.
Shinrin-Yoku, now practiced globally, takes place outdoors using very slow, guided walks on easy walking trails. It’s designed to help us slow down, relax and re-awaken our senses.
In 2019 I took my first Forest Bathing class at the Cincinnati Nature Center. At the end of the 3-hour, slow walk on nature trails I felt an amazing surge in energy and clarity, and I was much more relaxed. I was hooked.
Last year, in 2021, I made the decision to become a Certified Forest Therapy Guide and enrolled in a 6-month program offered by ANFT (Association of Nature & Forest Therapy).
Shortly after that, I launched a new executive coaching offering – Trek Coaching Outdoors, working with individuals and small groups of professionals in parks and nature centers for coaching sessions.
Surveys taken by participants indicate the experience of slow walks helped them clear their minds, gave them more energy and clarity and a sense of hope.
It’s been wonderful to watch the transformation of nurses, bankers, marketing and sales professionals arrive tired and stressed, and leave energized and relaxed.
It’s a gift you give yourself when you take time to walk on a nature trail with a coach/forest therapy guide. With the sky above you, trees, and the sounds of birds, nature provides what you need to slow down, take a breath, and restore your heart, mind and spirit.
If you’d like to join me for one of our upcoming Trek Coaching Outdoors programs, you can find a registration link at TrekCoaching.com/Events.
Learn more about Pam Lowe Cho and Trek Executive Coaching on WISe here, or follow on Instagram @trekcoaching.
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