Forest Therapy

What is forest therapy?

Forest therapy is a guided interaction with the natural environment in which we are invited into slow-paced, mindful, sensory engagement with the more-than-human world. The lineage of forest therapy can be traced to shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing,” as it has been practiced in Japan for the last several decades, and there is an enormous body of scientific research proving its medical benefits. It can also be traced back much further to the evolution of our ancestors in reciprocal relationship with the natural world, which has only been disrupted relatively recently by industrialization and colonization.

What are the benefits of forest therapy?

The proven medical benefits of time spent in the forest are too numerous to list here. They include lowered stress, improved immune function, increased parasympathetic nerve activity (rest and relaxation mode vs. fight or flight mode), improved cognitive function, creativity, and memory, and improved mood. These effects have been proven in over 100 scientific studies measuring variables such as cortisol and adrenaline levels, natural killer cell function, blood-flow to the frontal cortex, heart rate variability, blood pressure, memory and others.

It has been shown that proximity to trees makes us happier and helps us heal faster; that exposure to phytoncides (chemicals emitted by trees) increase our ability to fight infections and tumours; and that handling and smelling soil releases oxytocin — the same hormone released when we are bonding with a human caregiver. What science cannot measure precisely is the sense of wellbeing that can come from restoring our natural connection to the environment of which we have always been a part.

What can I expect on a forest therapy walk?

You can expect to spend about 3 hours in the woods, moving slowly, and being invited into various kinds of sensory experiences. You will likely get close to some of the many interconnected beings in the forest ecosystem, including trees, other plants, soil, rocks, water, fungi, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and invertebrates. You may get dirt on your shoes, pants, and hands. You may be surprised at what emerges for you and between you and other participants as you share this experience.

About me (your guide)

My name is Kristina Kyser and I am a Registered Psychotherapist (RP) working in private practice in Toronto since 2010. As a therapist, I work primarily with individual adults and my practice is informed by a knowledge of trauma, mindfulness, neuroplasticity, and resilience. I am currently training with GIFT, the Global Institute of Forest Therapy, to become a certified forest therapy guide. During my practicum, I am offering free 3-hour forest therapy walks in High Park.

The first one is on Friday October 22 from 12:00-3:00 pm. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me at kristina@spider.org, and to check out the linked eventbrite page here.

The next one is Friday November 5 from 12:00-3:00 pm. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me at kristina@spider.org, and to check out the linked eventbrite page here.