Forest bathers extol benefits of ecotherapy amid mental health crisis and long waiting lists


The mental health crisis and long waiting lists for therapy have led to a rise in the number of people seeking alternative treatments, with some crediting “ecotherapy” with saving their lives.

One form of ecotherapy that is becoming increasingly popular is known as forest bathing.

It’s a simple method of being calm and quiet among the trees, observing the nature around you while breathing deeply, say those who support the idea.

With the National Health Service With five million patients said to access mental health care between 2022 and 2023 in England – an increase of more than one million in five years – people are increasingly seeking refuge in nature to escape the stresses of modern life .

Susanne Meis, director of forest bathing at Kew and founder of Meet in Nature, told Sky News: “The first step is to come and see, hear, smell, touch and experience forest bathing for yourself.”

And he added: “I have seen thousands of people during and afterCOVID-19 benefiting from forest bathing.

“Some have told me that forest bathing literally saved their lives, others told me that it has transformed their relationship with nature.”

The practice inspired the winner of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, where London designer Ula Maria won a gold medal for her forest bathing garden.

Ula Maria won gold at this year's Chelsea Flower Show for her forest bathing garden.  Photo: PA
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Ula Maria won gold at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show for her forest bathing garden. Photos: PA

He described the garden as a place of “comfort and reflection” for those affected by muscular dystrophy, and chair of RHS show garden judges Liz Nicholson called it “a wonderful piece of woodland edge” that was “immersive.” “relaxing and calming.”

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According to mental health charity MIND, forest bathing can help both adults and children de-stress and improve health and wellbeing naturally.

They add that it should be used in conjunction with other mental health deals.

Katie Mills, founder and director of Forest and Family, also told Sky News that, despite misconceptions, forest bathing doesn’t simply involve “taking off your clothes.”

She believes the practice is gaining popularity around the world and says there are huge benefits when people connect with nature.

Trees for Anjum Peerbaco's ecotherapy piece
Trees for Anjum Peerbaco's ecotherapy piece
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MIND’s Hayley Jarvis said “some of these projects are trying to fill a gap” in traditional therapies.

The idea behind forest bathing originates from a Japanese practice known as shinrin-yoku, which began in the 1980s.

Dr. Qing Li, founder of the practice, is credited with saying, “There is no medication you can take that has as direct an influence on your health as a walk through a beautiful forest.”

Forest bathing consists of slow, mindful activities that focus on what you can see, smell, hear and touch.

Exercises include changing your line of sight, observing a variety of colors within nature, smelling strongly scented leaves, and experiencing different textures.

Every forest bathing experience can be different. It can usually be accomplished over a period of about two hours with less than a mile of walking.

But you can also practice it for as little as 10 to 15 minutes, or extend it over several days or weeks.

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According to the NHS, around one in five children and young people aged eight to 25 had a probable mental disorder in 2023. In 2017, it was one in nine.

Although MIND supports nature in the treatment of mental health, the charity’s leader for sport and physical activity, Hayley Jarvis, said: “Ecotherapy is not the only solution, it should be used in conjunction with nature therapies. conversation and medications.

He added: “1.9 million adults are on waiting lists for mental health services on the NHS.

“Some of these projects are trying to fill a void.”



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