Dreaming of walking in nature with Suzanne Radford

Recently, much has been said about the benefits of therapy associated with nature. Have you heard about Forest bathing? Even the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, designed her garden for the Chelsea Flower Show based on this practice. To tell you a little about this new trend that seems to come to stay, we interviewed Suzanne Radford, Forest bathing guide, certified by FTI and practitioner of this therapy based in the Algarve. Soon we will welcome her in the next session on this new trend at the next edition of VDL Talks. More news coming soon!

What is Forest bathing?
Shinrin yoku is the Japanese name for forest bathing
and it means to bathe or immerse one’s self in the forest
atmosphere. Dr Qing Li in the 1980s identified office workers
in Tokyo sitting indoors at their desks for long periods
of time were showing signs of stress. He created health
programmes including walks in forests to combat this
and observed how rejuvenated people were afterwards,
they felt ‘alive’ and ‘energised’. He carried out research into
why this is so and gathered scientific evidence as to how
time spent in nature can help us both physiologically and
emotionally.


How does forest bathing work?
A forest bathing walk typically takes two hours as I guide
people through a series of ‘invitations’ to awaken the senses
and relax the mind and body. I ask people to notice details
like shapes and colours, to listen to the sounds around
them, and to smell the scents whilst providing moments
for people to share their thoughts and experiences which
is optional, silence is also welcome. The aim is for people
to unwind and to deepen their connection with nature
and to allow time for one’s self.


Why is it good for us?
It is well documented that time spent in green spaces
can help reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol,
improve sleep, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol,
reduce the risk of type II diabetes, reduce anxiety and
depression. Studies show that breathing in the organic
compounds emitted by trees can help combat a variety
of illnesses. These essential oils are called phytoncides,
they are anti-microbial and released by trees to protect
themselves from disease. When we breathe them in they
boost our natural killer cells (NK) and our immune system.


How often do we need a green prescription?
As little as 20 minutes a day spent amongst trees can benefit
us but a minimum of 10 hours a month is recommended
to increase NK cells the positive effects staying in the body
for around seven days afterwards.


Why do we need a guide to walk in nature?
Walking with a guide who is a trained forest therapy
practitioner can help you feel at ease and access all the
forest has to offer in a safe and gentle way. Of course,
anyone can practice forest bathing for themselves but like
with yoga or going to a gym the quality of practice and the
amount is questionable when we are on our own.


Why is forest bathing so special to you?
Whether I am in a forest or by the sea, nature is ever
giving and there is always something new to see, to learn
and if I need a digital detox or I am feeling worried about
something a walk in nature helps. The fractals of light
through the trees when I look up, the smell of the forest
after the rain and the taste of a sea breeze in the air. Along
with feeling well it’s the awe and beauty I experience that
makes it special. I talk about the 3 Cs – Calm, Contentment
and Clarity, they are just some of the things a forest bathing
walk can provide.


Inspiration?
“When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the
honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness. I would almost say that
they save me, and daily.” From the poem by Mary Oliver,
When I am Among Trees.
Coming soon to Vale do Lobo...