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  • Why nature and forest therapy?
    I was blessed to grow up in a time and place where children had almost unrestricted access to nature and the outdoors. It was glorious and we were happy. As a young woman in my twenties, I found myself working for the U.S. Forest Service in the wildlands of the American west where my connection to nature grew deeper and deeper roots while my heart and soul became totally entangled with the beauty, peace, awe, and wonder of Mother Nature. The felt experience of sharing this connection with my crew was great fun, to say the least. Now, speaking as a healthcare professional, I have a real sense that we have the opportunity to improve our wellness and quality of life by intentionally connecting with nature. Do you remember what life was like before smartphones? There’s no question that we live in the “Information Age”, a time marked by a rapid progression in technology and access to information. Since the COVID-19 quarantine began, the average American spends over 6 hours of “screen time” per day which can negatively impact wellness. Taking a brief look at the news in the U.S. reveals a widespread mental health crisis that began prior to, and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nature and forest therapy is an evidence-based framework for accessing the therapeutic benefits of immersion in natural environments. Empirical research across the globe demonstrates a wide range of benefits of forest therapy on human heath, including elements of both physical and mental well-being. Improvement in health outcomes associated with diabetes mellitus, various infectious diseases, cancer, immune system function, healing from surgery, obesity, birth outcomes, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal complaints, migraines, and respiratory disease are all evidenced by research. Additionally, scientific literature demonstrates reduced incidence or severity of depression, anxiety disorder, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Other studies show that nature elicits greater sense of relaxation and mental clarity, and increased feelings of gratitude, selflessness, and wonder. My professional approach as an occupational therapist with a forest therapy focus is to hold space for clients to have a unique, personal, sensory experience with nature. The experience of forest bathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest-and-digest” state that is the body’s optimal state for healing and protects the body against stress. In these modern times, many Americans live daily in a state of chronic stress, the state of “fight, flight, or freeze”, whereby the sympathetic nervous system is dominant. By creating a parasympathetic nervous system response, forest therapy is an antidote to the health deteriorating effects of chronic stress. This is indicated by improvements in heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of a body’s ability to access the parasympathetic state. Apart from the black-and-white of science, many people find life in breathing fresh air, relief from the demands of email and texts, refuge in the colors, textures, and sounds of nature, and empowerment from using one’s long range vision.
  • What does nature and forest therapy actually look like?
    I lead people into natural environments where, following an introduction, we begin with a practice that is akin to a sensory awareness meditation. Next, I offer folks opportunities to connect with nature via their senses through a series of invitations. We have time to share our experiences in an optional, circle format and then we close together. There is no right or wrong way to participate and the whole process lasts 2-3 hours, after which time most participants report feeling more relaxed and connected. This practice is ideally done in groups, but has benefits for individuals as well. Additionally, I offer consultations to healthcare professionals and clinics regarding how to access the value of nature-based therapies for their patients.
  • What do I need to wear or bring?
    There is no bad weather, only bad gear! I recommend wearing layers so you can add or remove to your comfort level. Comfortable, closed toed shoes will protect your feet but some people like to go barefoot. Bring a blanket, towel, or yoga mat because we sit or lay down on the ground. Natural fibers like cotton or wool are best because they will allow your body to ground. A hat and sunscreen to protect from the sun. Wear bugspray if you are concerned about insects. Bringing a journal to take notes is an option if that suits you.
  • How physically demanding is it?
    Not very. While we do some slow walking, nature and forest therapy is different from a hike in that our goal isn’t to get a workout in. We do some sitting or lying down, so getting up and down off the ground is part of this practice. If you have a physical disability, please let me know so I can be sure to accommodate you!
  • Will this conflict with my religion?
    This modality has been intentionally designed to include and support people from any spiritual walk of faith or no faith. It is open for interpretation to complement one’s belief system. It’s worth noting that according to the narratives, God directed Abraham to look at the stars; Jesus went to the mountain to pray; Buddha found enlightenment sitting under a tree, and Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of knowledge, wisdom, and the arts, is considered the personification of a river.
  • How much does it cost?
    Each nature & forest therapy session is carefully scouted and intentionally curated for your group, lasts 2-3 hours, and includes refreshments. Rates depend on group size, the amount of time the host would like to spend, and location. Please send me a message for more information!
  • Where do nature and forest therapy walks happen?
    Nature and forest therapy or "forest bathing" can take place anywhere nature is present: on public lands such as state and local parks or community gardens, as well as on private lands with permission.
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