The first international Forest Therapy Days was held in Karjalohja, at Elontuli course center in the beginning of August this year.
The seminar was a full day of sharing knowledge, life and work experiences, good practices and forest therapy methodologies. The presentations gave to us a possibility to travel the world and to discover how different and at the same time similar we are: facing similar environmental, social health or human challenges.
Dr Iwao Uehara from Tokyo University of Agriculture shared with us his story about how Forest Therapy in Japan was born and how it evolved during the last decades. Kirsi Salonen from Jyväskylä and Tampere Universities helped us to reflect on the Finnish nature experiences and ongoing research in comprehensive health experience field, relationships between wellbeing, self-acceptance and connectedness with nature, role of social support in rising awareness on nature positive influences and finding that nature, which comforts each of us.
Dr Heli Jutila from Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation, shared her experiences from the protected areas, highlighting the fact that even in the forest rich countries like Finland, we have to stay vigilant to preserve forest resources for future generations to be able to continue to enjoy forests as provisioning, regulating supportive, cultural ecosystem services for human health and wellbeing.
Adela and Marko from Luonnontie consultancy brought us on the path of how practically, with powerful tools like knowledge, compatibility and creation of feelings of safety we can get closer to forest paradise.
Film maker Nitin Das´ experiences and given examples showed us the importance of music, forest art and creativity in bringing more people into nature and of creating a global community.
More speakers underlined the role of communities for personal development, healing processes in dependencies, life crises or searching for meaning of our lives. The examples from the Sápmi region stressed the importance of nature and culture based work forms for people whose culture is tied to the land. The SámiSoster´s Goaikkanas project is also the first work form that considers the Sami´s language and culture. Riitta Wahlström from Taiga institute provided us with some very practical tips on how to help others to respect and love nature more and how to use forest therapy to increase self-knowledge, to enhance social skills or to empower teenagers.
In the afternoon session we took a closer look at the well established American Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT) approach, when Ben Page walked us through the ANFT growth story, their mission and ways of operating. From the same ANFT family, Petra Cau Wetterholm from Shinrin yoku Sweden shared great insights and considerations from her practice of taking forest therapy as treatment in public mental health care system in Sweden. Also a practitioner from the ANFT approach of Forest Therapy, Youmin Yap from Shinrin Yoku Singapore showed us, that we can also connect with nature though nature or forest therapy in urban settings.
The Finnish Sirpa Arvonen gave us an introduction to her Forest Mind method, born from a combination of years of work experience around employee wellbeing in organizations together with her personal nature connection, all backed by scientific evidence.
Anders Mickos and Malin Heikkinen showed us how they have translated everything we heard in the seminar into primary health care and social services in Sipoo city. To close the day, Dr Liisa Tyrväinen from Natural Resources Institute Finland gave us a very informative high level update and statement from the world of research in her speech titled “How Convincing is the Research Evidence of Health Effects of Nature? “
Our goal was to create a space where practitioners and scientists could meet to exchange experiences and help drive forward this fast-growing field. We succeeded in bringing together people from a variety of backgrounds: majority came from health and medical sector, nature sector (wilderness guides, nature educators) and the creative sectors. We also included academic researchers from different disciplines, forestry sector representatives from different countries, and from the corporate sector.
Though women were in majority, men made up a quarter of the participants of the retreat. European participants made up over 60% of the participants, with a majority coming from the host country Finland. In addition, participants came from different parts of Asia, such as Japan, Singapore and India. North-America, both USA and Canada, were represented as well.
Feedback from the long seminar day was mostly good or even excellent (95%), though the length of the day and some practical items about the organization received some criticism. We are thankful for all the feedback we have received that allows us to improve our activities next year.
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More experiences in various languages can be read here (under construction):