by Michele Fulton
"Forest Therapy", also known as Forest Bathing is gaining immense popularity from coast to coast here in the United States as well as globally as the newest fitness trend. Touted as a mindful, guided stroll through any natural forest or woods, the intent is to allow participants to escape their hectic and stress filled lives for an hour or two and slow down in a natural setting while reaping numerous health benefits.
This Japanese technique originally called Shinrin-yoku, translates to "taking in the forest atmosphere" and can be done in larger guided groups of 10-40 people or, once learned simply by oneself or in smaller groups of family and friends. By learning to isolate our five senses; sight, sound, smell, touch and taste one at a time while surrounded by nature, we are able to breathe better, relax more, wander freely, touch actively, listen intently and most importantly; heal. The scientifically proven benefits of Forest Bathing include; boosted immune system function and reduced high blood pressure and stress related illnesses.
Forest Therapy Walks are an experience in mindfulness, not a strenuous hike and usually cover only a mile or so of ground. To find a walk near you led by a guide trained from the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy visit http://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/
Locally, here in NJ, the Monmouth Conservation Foundation is offering a Forest Therapy Walk on Earth Day, Sunday, April 22nd. They will meet at 11 AM at the Nature Center parking area, which can be accessed using the main entrance to Allaire State Park (same entrance as the village and railroad area). The Nature Center parking area is to the right shortly after entering the park and is marked by a sign. A donation of $20 will be collected at the event. Please bring cash or check.