Origins of Forest Therapy

Forest Therapy, sometimes called Forest Bathing, has its roots in the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku.


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. 

“I live with severe depression and panic disorder. Usually, I hate meeting new people. Mia was so welcoming that I was really able to relax and enjoy the forest walk and listening to what others were sharing. I felt safe and comfortable enough to share my thoughts out loud.”
-- Community Participant
An Elderly Woman In The Tall Grass With Spikelets

Grief, Loss, and Trauma

We may have learned instinctively that spending time in nature helps us when we are struggling with grief, loss, or trauma. The rhythm of waves, the warmth of the sun, watching gardens grow, all these and more are comforts when we are feeling sad, discouraged, angry, or frightened. Forest therapy may help you integrate grief, loss, and trauma into your life story and promote a sense of healing or wellbeing.

Child-Like Curiosity and Joy

Research on awe, wonder, play, and curiosity shows that these emotions and experiences are vital for our mental health. They make life worth living and broaden our understanding of our place in the world. Forest walks encourage playfulness, curiosity about the world around us, and stimulate imagination.
Wild Flower On A Rock

If You Have a Diagnosed Condition

Always consult with your physician and follow their guidance in the treatment of any diagnosed health condition.


Forest and Nature Therapy is not a treatment by itself for medical or psychiatric conditions. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) does not permit diagnosis or treatment for any kind of medical or psychological condition.

Nature is the "Therapy"

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.

Are you looking for another way to improve your health or wellbeing?

Research from around the world has demonstrated that forest and nature therapy walks can improve both physical and mental health.