Forest Bathing 101
We chatted with Ronna Schneberger, an instructor with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides (ANFT) to learn more about forest bathing* and to answer our questions. Ronna is based out of Alberta and is not only a Forest Bathing Guide and Instructor, but is also a certified ACMG hiking guide and Master Interpreter with the IGA. Here’s what we learned from Ronna, our resident forest bathing expert!
What is forest bathing?
According to the ANFT “forest [bathing] is a research-based framework for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments”. In other words, forest bathing allows us to connect with nature in a way that is mindful, respectful, and rejuvenating. As Ronna said, it allows us to enter an almost meditative state, without actually having to learn how to meditate! Forest bathing allows you to feel relaxed and at ease, whilst gaining mental and physical health benefits.
What are the benefits? What’s the evidence?
Forest bathing is conducive to many health benefits, both physical and mental. Ronna explained that she has worked with doctors to demonstrate the various health benefits. She has even worked on the Parks Prescription project, which allows doctors to prescribe time outside in nature to patients experiencing a variety of ailments.
Much of the scientific evidence supporting forest therapy comes from Japan. The research started by asking a simple question: “What happens when we are exposed to trees?” and it turns out that a lot of amazing things happen to us! Research found that exposure reduces cortisol levels, helps to balance blood pressure, and aids in resetting your nervous system. Moreover, they found that exposure to nature decreased depression and rumination, acting as a type of reset button for the brain.
Further research has shown that phytoncides (they live on the trees and produce that distinct ‘tree’ smell) are extremely beneficial to our health. Exposure to phytoncides increases our natural killer cells which are our ‘tumor fighting’ cells that strengthen your immune system.
Who is forest bathing for?
Forest bathing is for everyone!! You do not need to be struggling with your mental or physical health to gain benefits. In fact, one of the best parts of forest bathing is that it can be accessed for free, just by going to your local park or stepping into the woods.
“Nature does most of it for us; it’s in our DNA to be outside; when we go outside, our body reacts to it”
Why go with a guide and not just by yourself?
If you have the financial resources to do so, Ronna recommends going with a guide your first few times practicing forest bathing. Certified guides with the ANFT are trained to follow a tried and tested ‘sequence’ to get patients into a relaxed state. Once you have experienced forest bathing with a guide a few times, it is easy to enter that state by yourself, allowing you to reap the most benefits. Moreover, a guided experience is more concentrated and helps to shut out distractions.
Lastly, Ronna explains that guides work with a relational model that helps establish a heartfelt relationship with the forest. Guides are able to encourage reciprocity and respect with nature into a guided practice.
Who can I go forest bathing with?
If you are interested in trying out forest bathing, we have four amazing guides on Yervana:
- Melody Rose, located in Chilliwack, B.C.
- Kim Verigin, located in Harrison Hot Springs, B.C.
- Milena Mcwatt, located in Edmonton, A.B.
- Grace Baker, located in Barrier, B.C.
*Please note that the terms forest bathing and forest therapy will be used interchangeably in this article***
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