Forest Bathing Takes Root in Canada: Meet B.C.’s First Certified Forest Therapist

There is no word in the English language for the feeling you get when surrounded by towering trees in a forest so quiet you can almost hear the plants growing.

But, in Japanese, the word shinrin-yoku — or forest bathing — captures that feeling of taking in the forest atmosphere. And, in British Columbia, it’s becoming a growing trend.

“Forest bathing really is about immersing yourself in the ambiance of the forest and allowing its beauty to just wash over all of your senses, creating a really calming effect,” Haida Bolton said over the phone from a forest in Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast.

Bolton is B.C.’s first certified forest therapy guide.

“The emerging forest therapy practice came from the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs out of California,” Bolton told CBC’s On The Coast.

“They were inspired by the Japanese practice of forest bathing and it’s just a newly evolving practice.”

She completed the program and got her certification in 2016.

“I was so aware of how disconnected we’ve been becoming as a society from the world that is supposed to nourish us,” she said.

“[Forests] have a really peaceful, calming, ‘welcome home’ effect.”

While some people may find a similar sense of peace by hiking or trail running through the forest, for example, Bolton emphasized that forest therapy is quite different from those kinds of outdoor activities.

“Hiking is a great way to enjoy the forest but it’s about the destination, going from here to there and probably as quick as you can,” she said.

“[Forest bathing] is about slowing down and really, really feeling everything with your heart and your fingers and your sense of smell and hearing.”

The first way to practise forest therapy? Just go be still in nature and take it in, Bolton said.

“Observe the forest around you in one spot for 20 to 30 minutes,” she said.

“Smelling and hearing and feeling the different textures and noticing the different colours and just whatever your body feels drawn to notice.”