Forest bathing walks offered in Victoria Park this summer
City of Charlottetown initiative to encourage more forest therapy while out
It's a guided tour through the urban Acadian forest of Victoria Park in Charlottetown where the goal is to focus on the natural space around you. It's known as a forest bathing walk.
The City of Charlottetown is offering the half-hour tour over lunch two days a week — Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The guided walk is not so much to answer questions about the forest but how to make the most of getting in tune with the environment around you.
"The thing with forest bathing walks is it's more of a meditative experience more than like a regular walk through the woods," said Samuel Blaney, a nature restoration and education co-ordinator with the city.
"These walks are an old practice — it's been happening all around the world."
The ideas behind forest therapy are based on the Japanese practice of shinrin'yoku, which was developed by the Japanese government when it found the health of its people declining when they moved from working in farm fields to factories.
Blaney said most of the talking from the guides is to help lead the group in finding ways to get more out of the experience.
Things like getting people to close their eyes to take 10 deep breaths and count the natural sounds they can hear.
There are benefits, Blaney said, to both the mental and physical aspects of forest bathing.
"Studies have shown that if we spend at least 120 minutes, or two hours, in nature a week it greatly improves our physical health," Blaney said.
With the mental side of it, he said, it can reduce anxiety and blood pressure levels as well as make people feel more relaxed.
Blaney said the program grew out of an idea at the City of Charlottetown during the last year as people were looking for more ways to decrease stress and get outdoors.
"It doesn't matter who you are, anybody can go into the forest and almost experience the same thing," Blaney said.
"You just look around. You can pick out five things and someone else may not pick out the same things but you are still in the forest and taking it all in."
The tips and tricks suggested on the forest bathing walks can be used in any outdoor space, Blaney said.
The free walks run until the end of August. They start at 12:15 between the two ball fields at Victoria Park and run for a half-hour.
Blaney said they don't go through areas that are too wet but recommends people bring comfortable footwear, water and bug spray.