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Healing through Forest Bathing

Diego Salas

At times like this, it seems that the world has obliged us to pause our usual pace of life, and the health restrictions have tested the tolerance of everyone. It seems to be the right time to talk about forest bathing and the deep necessity we humans have to connect with nature.

This health enhancing practice became popular in Japan in the 80’s, when a group of scientists proved that regular visits to wooded areas, considerably lowered stress levels in those who made regular visits.

The studies showed that this type of sensory experience, in connection with nature and for prolonged amounts of time, not only make up a positive and entertaining pastime, but also produce a series of positive effects in our organism.

Forest Bathing aims to heal our bodies and minds

For example, it was discovered that Forest Bathing help control anxiety, depression and mood swings, as well as being of benefit to people suffering from high blood pressure, cancer and heart disease, amongst other things. It also helps to improve blood sugar levels and strengthen the immune system. And those are just some of the benefits.

When we take part in Forest Bathing, we seek to expand our sensory capacity, giving ourselves up full to the healing power of nature.

With the support of a trained guide, our mind is led to a state of relaxation and peace which is similar to what happens during meditation. But here it is combined with a close connection with the energy generated by the trees, plants, wind, earth, leaves and all the living beings which form part of the experience in that moment. Even the sound of birdsong has effects on our state of mind.

The awareness of aromas, textures and the sounds of nature become a central part of the activity. Unlike trekking or hiking, where the goal is usually to discover a specific place and its flora and fauna, Forest Bathing aims to heal our bodies and minds. In this sense, the rhythm of movement is gentler, and energy is focused mostly on reaching and maintaining the connection with the environment.

It’s important to note the difference between Forest Bathing and Forest Therapy. In the first activity, normally a trained guide leads and supports the experience of the other participants., In the second one, there are several sessions, and specialized psychologists or psychiatrists guide the process.

Although the name is “forest bathing”, the benefits can also be found other types of environments, such as the Atacama Desert, on the beaches of Chiloé or surrounded by the Patagonian mountains. The important thing is to feel the energy projected by the different landscapes, which also deliver health benefits. The main difference, according to the experts, is that the trees and plants which are found in the woods give off aromas which contain substances which benefit our organism.

Chile is a pioneer in South America of this practice, and during the last few years, many local guides have become specially trained in forest bathing. The incredible and varied landscapes of the country are ideal for this healthy activity.

The native forests of Chiloé and of the extreme south in Patagonia are perfect for it, and have all the necessary attributes to ensure profound connection with nature. In the Atacama Desert, you can feel the earth’s energy almost immediately, and contemplation here is an opportunity to heal our bodies and minds following the stress of recent global events.

Think you’d like to try it? At Tierra Hotels we can help you make your own connection with nature in a way which is both personalized and sustainable.