Forest Therapy is an evidence-based, therapeutic practice that connects people to natural environments using gentle sensory-based 'invitations' (optional mindfulness and meditation exercises). I think of Forest Therapy as a preventative medicine, rather than a treatment.
There are 7 key elements to the practice:
It is when all these factors are present within the invitations that mental clarity and healing happens, with the forest as the therapist, and the guide as the facilitator.
Forest Therapy is not something you can do alone, a dog walk, a social chat with friends or a nature identification exercise. It is sometimes called Forest Bathing but no swimming is required!
You'll begin your experience with a brief explanation of the history and science, and then you'll be guided through a series of group and individual invitations. You will be able to turn off your worrying and wandering mind, and connect with your breath and body. It's not your average forest walk; it's very, very slow, and time is passed engaging senses.
Much of the time is spent in silence, although there is a chance for group reflection after each invitation. There will definitely be an opportunity to just sit with a tree. Finally, you'll close the session with a Japanese tea ceremony and snacks.
Having time to relax and connect to nature in magnificent ancient woodland can lead to emotional healing, mental clarity and a host of other benefits, which are proven to last for 2-4 weeks.
The practice of Forest Therapy originated in Japan 40 years ago, where it's known as Shinrin-Yoku ("bathing your senses in the atmosphere of the forest"). Japan is the most densely populated country on earth, with correspondingly high stress levels. It's also one of the most heavily forested countries. In the 1980s the Japanese government carried out extensive scientific research, which found that a two-hour Forest Therapy session could reduce high blood pressure, lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and improve concentration and memory.
And their findings went further; they found that the essential oils released by trees boost the immune system, so recovery time from surgery or illness is reduced. When Shinrin-Yoku was introduced to the health system, participants reported feeling better and sleeping longer. Furthermore, they enjoyed these effects for weeks following an experience. Forest Therapy is now practised by more than 5 million Japanese people, extends across the whole of Asia, and is growing in popularity in Europe, Canada and the US.
The results of my trial Forest Therapy walks align with these findings. They also demonstrate a considerable reduction in anxiety and increase in energy levels.
"Forest Bathing is just an amazing healing experience!".Nicla, Reading
"The course of monthly sessions allowed me to become increasingly open and take the experience to a deeper level each time. The benefits radiate through my mind and body, long after the session iteself has finished".Annie, Upham
"Committing to a 3 month series of forest bathing sessions allows you to revisit your chosen site and receive something new each time. I also loved connecting with the group through our shared experience over a number of weeks/months".Oonagh, Winchester
"The guided auditory meditations provided symptom relief that I hadn’t felt in over a year!
The heightened sensory experience in a relaxed calm environment of the forest, with a professional, kind, welcoming instructor who adapted the session to enable me to participate with a hidden disability, was fantastic"Shelly, Winchester
"You helped us so much - V went to see you know who and made the vital work call, both things she has been putting off for weeks! I have also had a v good night’s sleep! Must be six months since that has happened with no night sweats.
We will be in touch for the next episode soon!”.ES, Basingstoke
"I have to admit I was a touch cynical, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. After only one session I was aware of things I have never noticed before, and the resulting sense of calm was overwhelming. Working in a group is beneficial as together you create a more rounded experience and everyone observes completely different things, which is quite fascinating".Claudia, London
"I really really enjoyed our forest therapy walk, I didn't really know what to expect but I found it to be incredibly relaxing and interesting, and the feeling of calmness stayed with me for a couple of days afterwards. Thank you".Amy, Surrey
"I did a three hour session with Sonya, it is genuinely the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Value for money, I can highly recommend."George, Winchester
"Enjoyed my Forest Therapy experience with Adore Your Outdoors. To stop and savour nature, slow down and disconnect for a couple of hours was very liberating. Highly recommend!"Tilly, Birmingham
"Sonya was a nurturing, sensitive and inspirational guide; her love for the forest and belief in its ability to heal and restore is infectious. Highly recommend".Claire, Newbury
"Certainly a therapy and great help for people in high pressure jobs to relax, unwind and let go completely, leading to a better social attitude and if carried forward can be positive to those who are in contact with them".Philip, Odiham
"Amazing experience! I struggle to relax most days. After the first half hour every single sense was awake to my surroundings. I saw and heard things I would never had noticed on a walk. Sonya guided us seamlessly through our invitations, and the three hours flew by. I was so at peace I dozed off in the last invitation and woke with a squirrel not 3 feet away!
The heightened senses and feelings of calm lasted several days."Lisa, Weyhill
"Forest bathing is a magical experience! You lose all sense of time whilst opening to the wonders of your surroundings and reconnecting with yourself. This was my second experience with Sonya - I had loved the first one but was surprised at getting even more out of the second. I believe that the next will be even deeper still - I guess I’m learning a new skill here!
In a hectic world it feels like such a luxury to fully escape".Andrea, Sutton Scotney
“After the first meditation it was as though my eye balls had been washed!”.Jon, Southampton.
““Wow! What an amazing experience. Sonya was a brilliant host. I was fully immersed in the forest bathing experience, losing myself in the surroundings. This was due to Sonya’s ability to put us at our ease and her peaceful manner. I felt the stress flowing out of me and peace flowing in. During one invitation, I totally lost track of time and the sense of where I was.
I was so peaceful and relaxed. I would recommend this to everybody”.Paula, Winchester.