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Forest therapy company to train guides in Thunder Bay

Mar 03, 2020 08:08PM ● By Editor

Forest therapy sessions are different from typical walks in the forest because they promote mindfulness of one's surroundings, said Dr. Romola Porchuk, a clinical psychologist and one of the founders of GIFT. Photo: Heather Kitching/CBC



From CBC News · March 3, 2020

A company that seeks to harness the healing power of nature will train forest therapy guides in Thunder Bay, Ont., this spring.

The Global Institute of Forest Therapy (GIFT) offers guided walks and other "nature immersion" activities, according to its web site.

The sessions are different from typical walks in the forest because they promote mindfulness of one's surroundings, said Dr. Romola Porchuk, a clinical psychologist and one of the founders of the institute. 

"When we are doing vigorous walking or even slow walking, we tend to be in our heads a lot," she explained. "Forest therapy brings us into a state of slowness that mimics the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the system of rest and repair."

Before beginning the walk, people close their eyes to block out mental stimulation and connect with their other senses, she said.  Once they start walking, they are able to tune into sights, sounds, smells and other sensations all around them.   

The therapy can help anyone dealing with mental or physical health issues or needing to reduce stress, she said. Studies in Japan suggest it can lower stress levels, reduce blood pressure, increase focus, and boost the immune system, she added. 

The therapy was launched in Japan in the 1980s to help people cope with the stress of working life in cities, Porchuk explained.  Researchers in North America are now conducting research on it here.  

Forest therapy walks typically cost $35 to $65, she said, though some cities and companies sponsor funded walks.  Even a single walk can create changes in people, she added. 

Guide training will take place May 16-23 in Thunder Bay.

For more information, visit GiftOfTheForest.com.


To read the original article and see related reporting, follow this link to the CBC News website.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/thunder-bay-forest-therapy-training-1.5482304

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