When people think of forests, they may envision stands of trees such as maple, pine, spruce, or fir typically found up north. But Southwest Florida has forests, too. And forest bathing is a great way to enjoy them.
Forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, originated in Japan about 40 years ago. It is a slow, quiet, guided sensory experience with nature. Decades of research have shown that it can reduce stress, anxiety, depression and blood pressure; improve immune function as well as cardiovascular and respiratory health; and even help people fight cancer.
Forest bathing typically starts with a guided meditation and includes invitations to use senses such as sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste to explore nature. Optional opportunities for sharing throughout the program create a communal experience.
Forest bathing takes place over about 2 1/2 hours, a timeframe that helps people reach a state of complete relaxation. A group size of 10 to 20 people is ideal, though larger groups can be accommodated. The physical and mental health benefits can last up to 30 days.
Locally, Go Forest Bathing runs public, private, online, and even indoor forest bathing programs in Collier and Lee counties. Their guide is certified by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) and follows ANFT’s proven methods. Their guide is also certified in adult mental health first aid and youth mental health first aid by the David Lawrence Centers in Naples.
One location where Go Forest Bathing offers programs is the Snail Trail, a scrub and mangrove forest along Henderson Creek at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. It’s a beautiful spot that showcases different ecosystems. From seating on a dock overlooking the water, participants look, listen, smell, and feel what the forest is offering them.
Forest bathing at Rookery Bay takes place on the 1st Saturday of the month from October through April. Pre-registration is required, and the fee includes admission to the center with aquariums, a touch tank, exhibits, an art gallery, a butterfly garden, picnic areas, and a gift shop.
More venues are being added this season. Private forest bathing experiences for four or more participants can also be arranged.
Learn more and register for a program at GoForestBathing.com. Schedule a private forest bathing experience (minimum of 4 guests) by emailing email@example.com.
By Robin DeMattia