Nature Connection, Forest Therapy & Forest Bathing
Forest Therapy is a research-based framework for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments. It is a practice that is inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, which translates to “forest bathing.”
Shinrin-yoku is term that was coined in the early 1980’s as a marketing exercise to encourage people to spend more time in nature at a time of increasing ill health; when Japan was moving from an outdoor culture to more of a tech-based indoor culture.
In 2012, Amos Clifford formed the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy and inspired by the practice of shinrin-yoku, he developed forest therapy.
Whilst forest therapy includes elements of the Japanese practice of forest bathing, Clifford added to it elements of his own life experience: he’d been a psychotherapist, a vision quest guide, a Zen practitioner and a wilderness guide.
The terms 'forest bathing' and 'forest therapy' are used interchangeably in the UK but it is worthwhile noting that forest therapy as developed by Clifford is a practice that draws upon a wider spectrum of traditions and lineages than the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku / forest bathing.
Nature Connection & Relationships
Relationship with Ourselves
A typical Nature Connection Programme includes at least one forest bathing walk in a natural setting. The walk is slow and gentle, lasts around 2.5 hours and we cover a distance of less than 2km.
During this time, Liz offers a series of optional invitations that are designed to heighten sensory awareness. Being so, our experience becomes more embodied, rather than cognitive. Critical analysis and self-judgment begin to ease.
We are not dwelling on the past or anxious about the future. Sensory experience only happens in the present. We begin to appreciate the joys of simply being.
Relationship with Others
With many more people now working from home, (and it sometimes being difficult to decide if you're working from home or sleeping at the office!), ensuring successful home-working is a priority. And whether or not you are working remotely, restrictions around social distancing lead to feelings of disconnection whether from your co-workers or more broadly from friends and family. Feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression can start to creep in.
During our Nature Connection Programmes, there are times when we gather, share and listen to each other in a non-judgemental space. Being seen, being heard, having an empathetic conversation in these times can be immensely supportive.
Relationship with Time
Whether we are thinking about what we need to do, ruminating on what has passed, being in the moment is a privilege denied to many! And working from home there's the additional pressure of feeling the need to be busy 24/7. With the boundaries between home and work beginning to blur, switching off becomes more and more challenging.
A Nature Connection Programme is an opportunity to slow down: we have nowhere to go: we are not in a hurry. When we slow down, stop the busywork, and take in the natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves too.
Relationship with Nature
To fix the climate crisis, the wildlife emergency, to halt the pandemics, we need a new, more connected relationship which recognises there is no wellbeing without Nature’s wellbeing.
Re-establishing our Nature Connectedness comes through meaningful engagement with Nature. The University of Derby has identified five distinct practices which activate that engagement: tuning in through our senses; engaging with our emotions; appreciating beauty; celebrating meaning; and activating our compassion for Nature.
Our Nature Connection Programmes encompass all of these five practices. We begin to develop a meaningful relationship with Nature which deepens by returning again and again throughout the seasons.