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Contact Free Forest Therapy Helps Combat Covid19 Related Mental Health Challenges

As businesses, individuals and families recognise the need to prioritise employee wellbeing and self- care more than ever, thoughts are turning to what we can do to support our mental and physical health now, and indeed going forward once Covid 19 social distancing restrictions become less stringent.

Shinrin-Yoku , known in the UK as ‘Forest Therapy’ or ‘Forest Bathing’ is a clinically proven Japanese mindfulness practice that enhances connection to nature resulting in better emotional and physical wellbeing. Sonya Dibbin, a Forest Therapy expert from Winchester-based company, Adore Your Outdoors says, “Forest Therapy is a unique type of practice that can have a huge positive effect on the mental and physical health of those that take part. Outdoor wellness therapies such as this will be absolutely invaluable following this difficult period when we are spending so much time indoors, are constantly connected to technology and anxiety levels are at an all-time high.”

“During a Forest Therapy experience, I facilitate a series of non-contact exercises that focus on slowing down, turning off the chatter in the mind and bringing attention to the present moment. By activating their senses and reconnecting with the natural world, participants emotional blocks are lifted, they are restored and refreshed and become a more resilient version of themselves.”

GPs also acknowledge that fresh air and nature play a huge part in our wellbeing and as a result are prescribing ‘green prescriptions’ where patients are encouraged to spend time outside connecting with nature . Positive results include a stronger immune system, lowered hypertension, reduced stress and anxiety and improvements in sleep, concentration and memory. These outcomes are demonstrated in those that practice Forest Therapy for 2 hours just once or twice a month. Even the Duchess of Cambridge is a Shinrin-Yoku fan; her 2019 Chelsea Flower Show garden design was based on its teachings.

“It’s also possible to start practicing now, at home, in your garden, in a nearby woods or park” says Sonya. “Listening to bird song with your eyes closed, even through a window can be incredibly healing, as is standing or walking barefoot on grass or moss. Spring really is a great time to start your nature connection journey.”

Sonya’s non-contact, guided sessions are held outdoors in small groups of around 10 adults or 5 ‘adult & teen’ pairs, and last 2-3 hours. She currently offers 1:1s as well. She plans on hosting experiences again across a variety of ancient woodland locations in Hampshire and Berkshire as soon as social distancing rules allow. In addition to adult and family sessions, she now works with several progressive local businesses who are taking positive steps to look after their employee’s mental health.

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