Written by Tai-An Miao, Yoko Toyama Calistro, Taira Masuda, Ishmael Gomes, Davis Rehuher, Bailey Monick, Suzy Bruno, Evan Kuniyoshi, Michael Juberg, Tiare Sabellano-Tsutsui, & Susana Helm and reprinted from The Community Psychologist Volume 54, Number 3, Summer 2021
Mahalo to our certified guide, Phyllis Look, from the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy Guides & Programs for hosting us at Lyon Arboretum in Mānoa from April 21-23, 2021. Over three days we organized in small groups of 5 to 9 people to abide by our state’s social distancing rules. We embarked on 2-hour restful jaunts in which Phyllis settled us in a series of invitations to immerse ourselves in the healing properties of nature – by bathing with all five senses in the ambience of the forest. Some of us were familiar with the science showing shinrin-yoku has numerous psychological benefits, ranging from improved cognitive functioning, less stress as measured by cortisol and blood pressure, to reduced depressive symptoms in subclinical populations, to improved functioning among veteran’s experiencing PTSD (Anderson et al. 2018; Bettmann, et al. 2020; Stier-Jarmer, et al. 2021, Tsunetsugu et al. 2010). Developed in the 1980s simultaneously to promote forest preservation and prevent urban office-related stress, shinrin-yoku has risen in prominence in the health care system of Japan (to the extent that some businesses opt for employee insurance packages inclusive of preventive forest therapy, see:
Our group clearly benefitted from the FB experience as reflected in post-survey comments (N=17, see Table 1), as well as in the one-hour talk story debriefs about how to transfer these principles to our regular home and work life. In fact, several of us who “turn to nature & the outdoors for recreation/restoration/rejuvenation” on an annual or monthly basis have decided to be in relationship with nature each week as a result of the mini-retreat. The FB mini-retreat served to inspire us in two ways – gratitude and relationships. We collectively expressed gratitude for the experience of forest bathing in the moment and for sharing time in-person with co-workers and friends who have scarcely been seen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Congregating safely in a natural setting improved our moods, leaving us to reflect on the importance of strengthening relationships – with one’s loved ones, one’s self, or the natural world. The theme of reconnecting was important to us, as expressed in our desire to spend more time with loved ones in the great outdoors, the importance of
self-care and taking breaks from work, and wonderment and admiration for the beauty of the natural world. Overall, the forest bathing experience illustrated the importance of our bond with one another and with the natural world. At the time of this writing, one month since our FB mini-retreat, we have held walk-n-talks in the park rather than zooming from home, organized meetings in outdoor spaces on campus, and have ordered hotspots so we can untether from our desks for designated work-at-wa`ahila (state forest) days.
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