You might have heard of Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of ‘Forest Bathing’, but have you heard of Forest Therapy? Read on to see why this is something you’ll want to experience for yourself.
Want to give forest therapy a try? We shared a free 10-minute experience on our Instagram, guided by Kate Rentz, a Certified Forest Therapy Guide. More on Kate, and the benefits of Forest Therapy, below.
About our guide, Kate Rentz
Kate Rentz is a Certified Forest Therapy Guide with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. She grew up roaming the woods, rivers, and farmlands in rural Ohio, where she fell deeply in love with the natural world and for decades, has gone to nature to alleviate symptoms of her Lyme Disease, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Depression. Her passion for the outdoors and desire to help others find healing and connection in nature has led her to found Explore Sanctuary. In addition to her work as a Forest Therapy Guide, Kate is a talented photographer (and is the photographer behind many of the images right here at Kinfield!).
So what is Forest Therapy?
Forest Therapy is a presence and mindfulness practice inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku (‘forest bathing’), and is intended to help ground and heal all those who practice it. It can be experienced when walking through nature, when seated in the outdoors, or even indoors with the help of a plant or two. From our experience, it felt like a lightly active meditation, with our guide leading us through different mindfulness “invitations” that allowed us to touch and feel our surroundings, or simply sit and observe as we preferred.
What are the benefits of Forest Therapy?
Where to begin! Kate shared, "In addition to creating a space for grounding and being present, there are many physical benefits to Nature and Forest Therapy. Scientific studies show that exposure to the forest boosts our immune systems by breathing in phytoncides, an airborne chemical that plants give off to fight insects and disease. When people breathe in these natural chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the production of a white blood cell called the natural killer cell that kills cancerous and virus-infected cells in our bodies. Nature also helps reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, which often plays a role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and chronic illness.”
Studies have shown that time in nature improves overall well-being and happiness, and Forest Therapy enables us to tap into those benefits even more deeply.
We're curious—Kate, what benefits have you noticed personally?
Kate replied, "I've experienced SO many benefits from forest therapy. First and foremost, it has given me language to express the connection I've experienced all my life. It's also helped ease my mind. When I practice forest therapy, my racing mind stops and the forest helps me connect to my truest self. It reminds me that I am loved, that I am safe, and that I am wild — in the best way!
I'm a very curious and playful person and forest therapy allows me to tap into my inner child in a way that's so fun and so freeing! I've also noticed that I sleep better and feel lighter and it reminds me that we are ALL connected, are created beautifully, and have a purpose on this earth."
How is Forest Therapy different from just a walk in the woods?
Kate explains, "Going further than just a simple walk in the woods, trained forest therapy guides use a standard sequence of sensory invitations that help participants connect with the natural environment. This intent is created to help participants feel grounded in the present by noticing what's around them rather than judging or analyzing their thoughts or feelings."
Kate, how did you discover Forest Therapy? What inspired you to become certified as a guide?
Kate says, "Nature has always been a place of refuge for me. As a child, I was constantly exploring the woodlands and rivers around my home, completely unaware that I was intuitively seeking sanctuary amongst the trees and creatures of the forest. For the majority of my life, I've struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, and Chronic Illness and it was there, in nature, where peace and healing offered itself to me. Going outside has always been a spiritual experience for me and I've always wanted to invite people into the natural world in a way that I have always experienced it, in hopes that they too would find healing.
Over these last few years, I've been trying to find a way to do this in a way that felt intentional and tangible and finally in December of 2019, I found the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. The ANFT offers training and certification for forest therapy guides and I knew instantly that I wanted to sign up and receive my certification."
Who can practice Forest Therapy?
Forest Therapy is for anyone, and requires no special tools beyond your guide. Sessions can be done anywhere (even indoors!), and guides can adapt to any special circumstances or requests that you may have.
How can I find a Forest Therapy guide?
It’s easy to find a guide—you can visit the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy, and look for a guide near you. Many guides (including Kate!) are now offering virtual sessions. For more on working with Kate, you can visit her website, Explore Sanctuary.
What should I expect from a Forest Therapy session?
If you’re curious about Forest Therapy, we recommend checking out this free ten-minute experience with Kate here. Once you’ve decided that you’d like to try a longer or more immersive session, you can choose to look for a local event or even work with a guide virtually for a guided individual experience. You can find a guide via the ANFT website here, or connect with Kate here.
You can expect to interact with nature during your session, so be sure to dress appropriately if you’ll be outside, or have a plant or similarly natural item on hand for an indoor experience. Your guide will lead you through a series of “invitations” or prompts that will encourage you to experience your surroundings and reflect on what feelings they bring up for you.
We hope we’ve inspired you to give Forest Therapy a try—it’s a great way to expand (or begin!) your mindfulness practice, and one of our favorite ways to appreciate the simple joys of the great outdoors.
When you’re ready to get started, try Kate’s 10-minute Forest Therapy meditation here.
All images courtesy of Kate Rentz and are not to be used without permission.