The Good Life
Get Outside/Forest bathing
BY WENDY GUILD SWEARINGEN
Feeling the urge to get away from daily stresses and a steady deluge of
information? Want to throw your smartphone into a ravine and go live in
the woods? Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve and Environmental Education
Center just may offer the balm you crave, without unchecked body hair or the
destruction of pricey gadgets. The Center recently held its first forest bathing
walk, which focused on using the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest to
induce relaxation and ease anxiety and stress.
Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku is a
Japanese practice somewhere between
Zen meditation and natural treatment.
Spending quiet time in the woods can
put you in touch with nature and yourself, and provide a slew of health benefits from reduced blood pressure
to increased immune function. It is
believed that the combination of sunlight, light physical activity, a medita-tive enjoyment of nature, and organic
compounds called phytoncides—
created by plants and trees in abundance—
have profound psychological and
physiological effects on your health.
And it’s so simple.
We spoke with Mary Ronan, an envi-
ronmental educator at New York State
Department of Conservation, who led
the walk at Reinstein Woods.
I’ve heard that some health insur-
ance companies are offering to cov-
er “prescriptions” for forest bathing.
That doesn’t surprise me, because
research has been done on this and all
the health benefits.
How did you get interested in for-
est bathing and how did you start
We decided to run this program
because we’d been hearing about it, and
one of our board members brought it
up as something of interest. A few of
us had read about it in different magazines. We looked further into it and
thought it was a great fit for us at Reinstein Woods.
What we wanted to do with our
What kind of training did you need
forest bathing program was highlight
Reinstein Woods as one of the pock-
ets of green space in this increasingly
urban and suburban neighborhood. We
were hoping that, by doing a program
like this, it would open people’s eyes
and help them understand the value of
having these spaces. We also thought
it was a great opportunity to help our
community members and the people of
Western New York find a new way to
connect to nature. We’re very invested
in our community and the health of our
community. It’s a program that’s popu-
lar and kind of trendy at the moment,
so it seemed like a good opportunity for
to lead the group?
For forest bathing, there are professionally trained facilitators around the
United States and around the world. For
our program, we didn’t take any special
training; we did research on what programs are offering in other places, and
we put our take on that.
I lead the program as an environmental educator, which is my background and experience. We’re pretty
upfront with people attending the program that this was not a professionally
led forest bathing program, but I try to
highlight some of the same things you
would see in a more formal setting.
Spending quiet time in the forest can provide myriad health benefits.