Forest Therapy is a research-based framework for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments. On October 18, at this year’s SHIFT, M. Amos Clifford, the founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides (ANFT), the organization’s Medical Director, Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, and 2019 Emerging Leader Juan Lazo Bautista will lead a free, public workshop that features a hands-on exploration of its benefits.
Inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, which translates to “forest bathing,” Forest Therapy has been demonstrated to provide a wide array of health benefits, especially in the cardiovascular and immune systems, and for stabilizing and improving mood and cognition.
Mr. Clifford is responsible for bringing Forest Therapy to the United States more than 20 years ago. Today, ANFT—which is leading the movement to integrate nature and forest therapies into health care, education, and land management systems—is the leading global provider of Forest Therapy Guide training and expertise, having trained Forest Therapy Guides in 22 countries on 6 continents.
Mr. Clifford will be recognized for his work with ANFT with a 2019 SHIFT Award Official Selection in the Business Category at this year’s Festival.
“Forest bathing suggests to me a more casual experience among the trees, unburdened by expectations, oriented to simple pleasure,” says Mr. Clifford of the practice. “The forest is the therapist. The guide opens the doors.”
At last year’s SHIFT, Dr. Hackenmiller led an introductory experience to the practice. Seventy-five people took part—the largest group Dr. Hackenmiller had ever guided.
The next day, Dr. Hackenmiller led a second, more intimate outing that became a subject of an article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.
According to the article, Dr. Hackenmiller “stumbled onto the idea of forest bathing in 2014 while reading Oprah magazine. The story cited a study that found the levels of stress hormone cortisol decreased by 16 percent after a walk in the woods, as compared with an urban environment, and also noted an improvement in blood pressure after about 15 minutes in the trees.
“Another study found that women who logged two to four hours in a forest on two consecutive days saw almost 40 percent increases in the activity of cancer-fighting white blood cells.”
“I like to think that my medical experience and credentials help in some way to legitimize this practice,” says Dr. Hackenmiller. “It’s almost as if ‘doctor’s orders’ give people ‘permission’ to spend more time outdoors.”
Dr. Hackenmiller is an OB-Gyn and Integrative Medicine physician from Cedar Falls, Iowa. “I share the practice with my patients and with healthcare providers around the country on a regular basis,” she says. “There really is not a healing modality to which I am more committed—and this despite having pharmaceutical drugs, surgery, herbal remedies, nutritional knowledge, mind-body practices and other treatment options at my disposal.”
“I am excited that participants at SHIFT this year will have the opportunity to participate in a walk guided by Amos, the visionary who brought this practice to the U.S.,” says Dr. Hackenmiller. “People who try it are almost always deeply moved and often report immediate relief of symptoms, both mental and physical.”
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime (and likely life-changing) opportunity for SHIFT attendees,” she says.