New Forest Therapy Class Offered at the Cibolo
By Grant Lucas
Two questions often asked about Forest Therapy are: What and why should I be interested?
We live in a fast-paced, stressful world, and it has only gotten worse over the past two years. Stress does so much harm to our bodies, interfering with our concentration, sleep, mood, and energy levels. Pressure keeps our bodies in a constant “fight, flight, or freeze” state, which causes long-term damage to our minds and bodies.
Scientific studies have shown that spending time in nature and slowing down reduces stress as measured by cortisol, the stress hormone. Time in nature can improve our energy levels, focus, mood, and blood pressure.
The history of Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku began in Japan in the 1980s when the Japanese were moving to a tech-based economy. Many people were spending a lot more time indoors. The government noticed an increase in cancer and autoimmune disease. The Japanese government began several research projects to figure out how to combat the rise in the condition. One project asked a straightforward question: What happens when human beings are exposed to forest environments?
The researchers discovered that trees keep themselves healthy by showering themselves in chemicals called phytoncides. The researchers learned that humans have a precise response when exposed to phytoncides. Our bodies make a particular white blood cell called a natural killer or NK-cell, which roam the body looking for stressed cells and could turn cancerous and destroy them as a preventative measure. The Japanese researchers thought this was amazing, that simply going into the forest can potentially prevent severe disease. This is why they called it Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku because we are bathing in these phytoncides and other aerosols when we visit the forest.
The practice of Forest Therapy started in the United States when the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) tried to figure out how to help people repair their relationships with nature. Some of the practices they learned were very effective but required much time, money, and athleticism. Inspired by the Japanese tradition of Shinrin-yoku, the founders of the Association designed Forest Therapy as a multi-hour experience where people could begin to achieve the health benefits associated with Forest Bathing using a guided experience to slow down and engage in deep relaxation to reduce stress.
I hope you will take some time and join us at the Cibolo Center for Conservation’s Nature Center campus for the first walk on Saturday, February 12th from 10 am to noon. Forest Bathing and Therapy walks are $15 for non-members and $10 for members. Attendees will meet in the Cibolo Nature Center parking lot before heading out on their two-hour walk. You can register and find out more on www.cibolo.org/calendar.
Grant Lucas will lead all the Forest Bathing and Therapy walks at the Cibolo.