Beginning in the 1980s, Japan went through a period of rapid urbanization. Millions of people moved from rural villages to densely populated cities. Use of technology increased, and people spent less and less time outdoors. Japanese researchers noticed a simultaneous dramatic increase in the rates of several chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. Might something in the rural environment be protective and vital to good health?
Researchers discovered that time spent in forests provided several health benefits. After even short amounts of time spent in nature, blood pressure decreased, glucose normalized, and cardiac measures improved, such as heart rate and variability. Cortisol and stress hormones decreased. In addition to physical benefits, people also reported feeling calmer and more joyful. They felt more energy, better sleep, and felt less stressed. For some people, positive health benefits continued to be measurable days and even months after time spent in the forest, or shinrin-yoku.
Trees produce chemicals called terpenes which cause many of these positive physiological changes. While in the forest, we are showered with terpenes. These compounds increase NK-cells, a particular type of white blood cell that is important in strengthening the immune system and surveilling for cancer.
A guide is not a naturalist, therapist, teacher, or psychiatrist. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy trains guides to accompany participants on a unique, sensory experience with nature. Group experiences on a walk provide supportive sharing and listening.
I open the door so you may experience connection to the natural world in fresh and unexpected ways. As your forest therapy guide, I strive to create a safe space for you to relax and take in whatever emotions, reflections, or memories that may come up for you in our time together.