I started hiking in Australia well into my 40s. I had just qualified as a personal trainer, but, I yearned for the freedom of being in nature, away from the confines of a florescent lit gym. It’s a call we all get at some point in our life, and I was enjoying every minute of raw energy getting to the top of the next hill, pounding my way over kilometers of rugged Australian bush tracks. I even started a hiking meetup group in Melbourne “Happy When I’m Hiking.” That sums it up doesn’t it? ☺
Then last year, something changed. I was in Virginia, celebrating my Mother’s 70th birthday in a lovely house overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her fondest childhood memories were those spent in nature, so her birthday wish was to do exactly that. We drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping at many of the lookouts, marveling at the views, and walking along gentle paths. I was no longer rushing. I was present, looking, touching, tasting and breathing in the forests around me. It made me curious; surely, there must be others that are connecting to nature this way? And so my inquiry into ‘forest bathing’ began, finally finding my way to New Zealand in October this year.
Over eight days, I had the privilege to be one of the first four Australians to be trained by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. As the first certified forest therapy guide in Victoria, it is my sincere hope and wish to guide as many people to experience and benefit from ‘the medicine of the forest.’
The idea of spending quality time in nature may seem simple, but it is actually quite profound and often life changing. The Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, or “Forest Bathing” embodies the concept that healing, relaxation and rejuvenation that occurs by immersing oneself in nature. According to shinrin-yoku.org, the scientifically-proven benefits of forest bathing include:
- Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells
- 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
- Improved sleep
- Improved clarity
Join me on my journey, give yourself time and treat yourself to the medicine of the forest.
You might like to take a first look at this brief Forest Bathing video clip.