The Renaissance of Modern Forest Therapy


origins of Forest therapy

The modern concept and experience of forest therapy formally started in the early 1980s in Japan with Shinrin Yoku (pronounced 'Sheen-deen yoh-koo). Literally translating to 'Forest Bathing', the initial observations and then subsequent research demonstrated direct health benefits to immersing oneself in the healing features of a natural area. Of course, this is the modern Japanese version of the story. Indigenous cultures the world over have gone to nature to find not just sustenance and survival, but also for reasons of healing and spiritual connection.

Indigenous cultures undoubtedly were the first ‘forest bathers’ or rather ‘nature bathers’ given that these peoples, our ancestors, were naturally outside and inextricably nature-connected. 
— Team GIFT

green prescriptions

Given that we live on a planet with an abundance of life, it should go with out saying that every doctor's prescription is 'green' as our pharmaceuticals for the most part, are derived from plants. There also is healing from non-plant materials such as minerals and other inorganic items. Modern conventional wisdom has advised people when sick to stay inside so as to not catch a cold or any other disease from the soil or 'unknown' nature. There is a different type of green prescription, however, and this type goes against the old grain;"Get outside - Drs. orders..." ' Fresh air' and beyond is now known to be critical for the recovery of weakened human health state to return back to homeostasis, our natural state of well being. Thus, the 'new' green prescriptions given by many doctors are recommendations for ill patients to get some time outside, in fresh air, surrounded by trees and flowing waters. More and more commonly we are seeing doctors and other health practitioners return to raw nature for health prescriptions. 


Growing movement of forest therapy

Many individuals and organizations have been inspired by either the practice of Shinrin-Yoku in Japan and/or their personal experiences of healing in nature and forest environments. Forests are a climax ecosystem that humans have co-evolved in or alongside for the majority of our history. They offer amplified healing elements, both physiologically (as phytoncides have shown) and psychologically (as humans have a natural biophilia with trees). ANFT, the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs co-founded by Sky, was the first organization, outside of Japan and South Korea, to offer extensive training for people to become certified forest therapy guides and has paved the way for forest therapy in North America, as well as in several other countries. After acting as its director of certification for 3 years Sky left ANFT in 2017 to start GIFT with Ben, whom she had trained to be the first Canadian certified forest therapy guide in 2015. You can now find guides or programs for forest therapy in at least 25 countries, and in at least four continents. This coincides with the most extreme urban state in our human history; more people live in cities now than in rural areas and in many 'developed countries' the average person spends very little time outside of human-constructed buildings (less than 1.5 hours per day).