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Forest therapy and contemplative sciences





I've recently have the honour to work with colleagues to submit grants to run forest therapy sessions for frontline healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a piece of how we framed the benefits of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku for those grant applications:


Building resilience through forest therapy and mindfulness: Forest therapy is based on the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, originating in Japan in the 1980’s resulting from a rise in stress-related injuries primarily in the emerging technology industry. Forest therapy programming, as designed by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, is as outlined by Abookire (2020) a guided outdoor healing practice which relies on guides setting a deliberately slow pace where people are invited to experience the pleasure of nature. further identifying that the practice encourages participants to be present in their body, enjoy the sensations of being alive and through that experience derive the profound benefits from a relationship between the individual and the natural world. Payne (2018) cites the mounting evidence (a review of 31 research studies) that forest therapy, or forest bathing provides health benefits to cardiovascular, immune, neuro-endocrine, and psychological health including:

  • An improvement in autonomic nervous system regulation of cardiac function, and the resultant improvement in overall blood pressure;

  • For the cardiovascular group, the most significant findings were related to the benefits of exposure to forest environments on blood pressure and hypertension

  • The immune group predominantly reported on the effect of forest bathing on inflammatory state through measures of NK and T-Cell activity......most studies reported significant improvement in all measures, resulting in an overall improvement of inflammatory state shown to be beneficial for people affected by COPD and CHF;

  • Early studies have also reported a potential benefit of forest bathing for pain management in patients with chronic neck pain…

  • The benefits of forest bathing on psycho-emotional states, the results reported significant improvement in positive affect emotional state, including improved vigor and restorativeness, and decreased depression, anxiety, and hostility. Some studies showed a correlation between the improved psycho-emotional state and improved regulation of the autonomic nervous system suggesting a psycho-physiological benefit derived from the forest environment.

References


Abookire, Susan, (2020). Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-forest-therapy-enhance-health-and-well-being-2020052919948


Payne, M. D., & DELPHINUS, E. (2018). Health, Wellness, and Society.

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