Category: Urban Forest Therapy

Urban Forest Therapy

  • Nature’s Role in Building Resilience: An In-Depth Look

    Read Time: 10 min

    In an era defined by rapid technological advancements and a relentless pace of life, the struggle to maintain mental and emotional equilibrium has become a pervasive challenge. Many of us find ourselves navigating a complex web of responsibilities, pressures, and expectations, leaving little room for recovery and reflection. This constant state of stress not only wears down our mental resilience but also distances us from the very essence of our well-being.

    This constant state of stress not only wears down our mental resilience but also distances us from the very essence of our well-being.

    Most mornings, I take a walk in my favorite city park, Forest Park, and am greeted by a world that seems untouched by the hustle of daily life. It’s in these moments, surrounded by the quiet flutter of the leaves and the soft, earthy scent of the ground, that I’m reminded of the stark contrast between our modern pace and the serene stillness that nature offers. 

    As a nature-based wellness coach and certified forest and nature therapy guide, I’ve observed how disconnected many feel from the natural world—and from themselves. And yet, in the simplicity of nature, particularly in the nature in our own back yards and local green spaces, we can find a bridge back to our inner worlds. In this journal post, I want to delve into how rekindling our bond with the outdoors can be a vital key to fortifying our mental resilience and fostering a sustainable sense of inner strength

    The Science Behind Nature and Resilience:

    The evidence supporting nature’s role in enhancing mental resilience is compelling. Numerous studies have illuminated how engagement with natural environments can significantly buffer the effects of psychological stress and improve mental health outcomes. One pivotal study by Ulrich, R. S., et al. (1984), found that patients recovering from surgery healed more quickly when their hospital rooms offered views of trees and nature, compared to those facing brick walls. This not only highlights nature’s restorative effects on physical health but underscores its profound impact on our psychological recovery processes.

    Another cornerstone of this body of research is the work of Dr. Qing Li, a leading expert in forest medicine. His studies on ‘forest bathing’—the practice of immersing oneself in the atmosphere of the forest—show not just an increase in natural killer cell activity, which plays a key role in our body’s defense against viruses and cancer, but also a marked decrease in cortisol levels. Cortisol is often referred to as the ‘stress hormone,’ and its reduction signifies a move towards relaxation and a state of mental well-being. Essentially, what this science tells us is that our interactions with nature can fortify our internal defenses, both physical and emotional, preparing us to better handle life’s stresses.

    Essentially, what this science tells us is that our interactions with nature can fortify our internal defenses, both physical and emotional, preparing us to better handle life’s stresses.

    A systematic review published in Environmental Research (2019) further consolidates the link between nature and mental resilience, showing that exposure to green spaces significantly reduces stress and improves mood. The research suggests that regular interaction with nature—be it through walks, gardening, or simply spending time outdoors—can cultivate a mental environment where resilience can flourish.

    Understanding the science propels us to integrate these insights into our daily lives, leading us to the following practical steps.

    Deepening the Connection:

    Engaging with nature to foster resilience is not about monumental changes; it’s in the daily, intentional acts of reconnecting with the world around us. Whether it’s pausing to breathe deeply in a city park, feeling the texture of leaves, or observing the steady rhythm of the ocean, these moments ground us in the present and remind us of the enduring cycles of nature—of growth, resilience, and renewal.

    Practical Tips for Engaging with Nature to Build Resilience:

    Incorporating nature into our daily lives is both a simple and profound practice that can significantly enhance our resilience. Here are some practical ways to deepen your connection with the outdoors:

    • Make it a habit to take daily walks in nearby parks or green spaces. These walks offer a chance to step away from the digital world and immerse yourself in the calming presence of nature. The rhythmic act of walking, combined with the sensory experience of being outdoors, can help reset your mental state and foster a sense of inner peace.
    • Start a small garden or nurture house plants to bring nature indoors. Gardening, even on a small scale, can be a deeply rewarding practice that connects us to the cycle of life and growth. For those with limited outdoor access, indoor plants offer a way to bring the outside in, improving air quality and providing a daily reminder of nature’s beauty and resilience.
    • Practice mindfulness or meditate in natural settings to deepen your connection. Mindfulness practices in nature, such as meditative walks or sitting quietly in a green space, allow us to be fully present in the moment. This presence can heighten our awareness of the natural world’s subtleties and our place within it, reinforcing our sense of connection and resilience.

    By integrating these practices into your routine, you’re not only nurturing your physical well-being but also fostering a deep, restorative connection with the natural world. This connection can be a powerful source of resilience, offering a stable ground from which to navigate life’s challenges.

    I recognize that access to natural spaces can vary greatly depending on where you live. Not everyone has a sprawling forest or a tranquil beach at their doorstep. But nature is everywhere. Even in the heart of the city, a single potted plant can become a sanctuary, and a moment spent gazing at the sky from your window can connect you to the natural world. These small acts of seeking nature, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can be powerful steps towards building resilience. They remind us that nature is not just a place to visit, but a mindset to cultivate, wherever we are.

    These small acts of seeking nature, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can be powerful steps towards building resilience. They remind us that nature is not just a place to visit, but a mindset to cultivate, wherever we are.

    Many of us have our own stories of how nature has been a sanctuary during tough times. Whether it’s finding peace in the rhythmic waves of the ocean or the serene silence of a forest, nature has a unique way of offering perspective and renewal.

    👉 I’d love to hear your story of finding strength and fortitude in nature in the comments. Your experiences can light the way for others navigating their path to resilience.

    The Role of Nature-Based Wellness Coaching in Building Resilience:

    In our fast-paced world, finding balance and resilience can sometimes feel out of reach. As a certified Forest and Nature Therapy Guide and Board Certified Wellness Coach, I offer a bridge back to the natural world, helping individuals rediscover their intrinsic strength through nature’s lens. Together, we can explore personalized strategies that leverage nature’s healing properties to cultivate resilience, balance, reciprocity, and a deep-seated sense of peace.

    The natural world holds profound lessons in resilience. Just as a tree bends in the wind but doesn’t break, we too can learn to weather life’s challenges with grace and strength. By integrating nature into our resilience-building practices, we not only enhance our mental and emotional well-being but also reconnect with the earth, reminding us of our place in the larger web of life.

    If you feel called to deepen your relationship with nature and harness its power for personal growth, I’m here to facilitate that journey. Whether you’re seeking to overcome burnout, navigate life’s stresses with grace, or simply find a deeper sense of peace, nature-based wellness coaching can offer the support and insights you need. Reach out to discover how we can work together to foster a resilient, balanced life, deeply connected to the natural world around us.

    In peace and presence,
    🌿 Jess

  • Embracing the Winter Solstice:A Journey from Darkness to Light

    Embracing the Winter Solstice:
    A Journey from Darkness to Light

    The Winter Solstice, occurring annually around December 21st or 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere, marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. This astronomical phenomenon happens when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun, leading to a significant decrease in daylight hours. The solstice has been observed and celebrated by various cultures throughout history, each attributing its own meanings and traditions to this pivotal moment in the annual cycle.

    The Winter Solstice has been recognized since ancient times. Many prehistoric sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland, align with the solstice sun, indicating its importance to early civilizations. In pagan traditions, the solstice is known as Yule. It symbolizes the rebirth of the sun, marking the gradual return of longer days. Yule is celebrated with various rituals, feasts, and the burning of the Yule log, symbolizing light overcoming darkness. The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a festival in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. This celebration involved feasting, gift-giving, and a temporary suspension of social norms, symbolizing abundance and renewal. 

    Many modern spiritual practices view the Winter Solstice as a time of introspection, renewal, and the rebalancing of dark and light within oneself. It’s seen as an opportunity to let go of the old and welcome the new. Around the world, various cultural festivals align with the solstice. For example, in China, the Dongzhi Festival is celebrated, while in Iran, Yalda night marks the longest night of the year with family gatherings and shared meals.

    For nature enthusiasts and environmentalists, the solstice is a time to reflect on the natural world’s rhythms and cycles, and our place within them. It’s an opportunity to connect with nature’s stillness and beauty during the winter season.

    My Journey Through Darkness and Light

    As the Winter Solstice approaches, I often find myself reflecting on the profound interplay of darkness and light, not just in nature, but in our lives. For me, this isn’t just a seasonal transition; it’s a powerful reminder of my own journey through darkness into light.

    In my early 20s, I moved to a new city, my first real venture into the world on my own. It was during fall, and by winter, the weight of ‘adulting’ in a bustling urban environment had become overwhelming. I remember feeling lost in the ‘holiday rush,’ a period where the world seemed to be moving at a breakneck speed, leaving me breathless and disoriented. This was a time when the city’s pace and the societal push for constant activity led me to a breaking point.

    Sadly, this chapter didn’t have a gentle conclusion. Overwhelmed by stress, I experienced what I now understand was a mental breakdown that landed me in the hospital for a couple of weeks. My parents, worried and unsure, decided it was best to move me back home immediately.

    I’ll never forget the frigid January days spent packing my cold deserted apartment with my father and best friend. I remember so distinctly examining a plant that I had purchased months before that sat wilted and lifeless on top of the radiator shelf. Neglected over the month I had been home due to the breakdown.

    I was engulfed in shame. Shame about my mental health, about being uprooted by my parents, about what I perceived as my failure. I lost everything I had worked for; my independence, my job, my apartment, new friends I had made, a sprout of a life I had created. Now I also carried the stigma of ‘mental health issues’ and shame that this had even occurred.

    That shame and feeling of helplessness led to a long period of deep depression for me that took over a year to crawl out of.

    With the help of family, therapy, lots of self care, dedication to healing, and medication I was able to move forward and find joy in my life again. As I started to recover from the depression, with the support of my doctors, continued therapy, and commitment to stress management practices and healthful lifestyle choices, I was carefully weened off of medications. While initially diagnosed manic depression, in the end it was decided that it was a mental breakdown induced by the stressors in my life at the time.

    This experience, a period shrouded in darkness, haunted me for years. Even though I had stabilized and began a new version of life, I doubted myself for everything. I was fearful of it happening again. I worried if I tried something new or unknown it might be a tipping point to another breakdown.

    So I buried it deep, trying to outrun its shadow by focusing on my studies and future. It would be almost two decades later when I finally faced this part of my past. Processing it, feeling the grief and lack of control, and, most importantly, learning to forgive myself, was my journey from darkness to light.

    It would be almost two decades later when I finally faced this part of my past. Processing it, feeling the grief and lack of control, and, most importantly, learning to forgive myself, was my journey from darkness to light.

    Nature’s cycles, especially through the winter months, played a pivotal role in my healing. Spending time amidst the trees and under the vast expanse of sky, I found a sanctuary where time seemed to pause, and the relentless pace of the world grew distant.

    Observing the land during winter, quietly steadfast and patiently waiting for spring, was a profound experience. It taught me about resilience, about the natural flow from dormancy to rebirth.

    The land, in its silent, nonjudgmental presence, offered me a space to be — simply to be — without expectation or pressure. It held me when I felt most fragile and mirrored back the promise of my own rebound into a spring of healing and growth. In this unspoken companionship, I found a sense of belonging and a deep connection to the cycles of life, feeling supported and understood in a way that words could never fully capture.

    As we welcome the solstice, I am reminded of how darkness can be a fertile ground for transformation. It’s a time to honor our struggles and to celebrate the light that inevitably follows. My story is a testament to this cycle, a journey through the longest night towards a dawn filled with hope and new beginnings.

    Exploring the Beauty of Darkness

    Reflecting on my own experiences of navigating through dark times, I’m reminded of how essential darkness is, not just in our personal journeys, but also in the natural world. Darkness, often misunderstood as merely the absence of light, is crucial for various life processes.

    In nature, darkness plays a vital role. Seeds germinate in the dark soil, initiating their journey of growth in this concealed environment. Many animals rely on the safety of night for rest and rejuvenation. Similarly, the darkness of winter is a period where the natural world slows down, conserving energy for the burst of life that spring brings.

    My own story is a metaphorical parallel to these natural processes. Just as seeds need darkness to begin their growth, the difficult period I went through was a time of unseen, yet crucial, personal development. It was in the embrace of this darkness that the seeds of my future self were nurtured.

    This perspective sheds light on the importance of embracing the quiet, introspective, and often unseen growth that happens in our ‘dark’ periods. Our society tends to prioritize constant activity and visibility, yet there’s immense value in the rest, reflection, and introspection that darkness offers.

    As we welcome the Winter Solstice, let’s appreciate the darkness not as a void, but as a nurturing space where growth takes root, where we recharge and gather strength for the new light that follows. It’s a reminder that even in life’s darkest moments, there is potential for renewal and transformation, much like the first light that breaks the horizon after the longest night.

    The Light Within and Without

    After delving into the nurturing qualities of darkness and how it has played a role in my journey, it’s equally important to recognize the vital role of light. The Winter Solstice, while marking the shortest day of the year, also signifies the return of light, bringing with it hope, renewal, and clarity.

    Just as the Winter Solstice heralds the gradual increase of daylight, it also symbolizes a rebirth, a fresh start. In nature, the return of the light is a sign of awakening and revival. Trees and plants, dormant in the winter, begin to stir with life, preparing for the spring’s growth. Animals emerge from their winter shelters, signaling a new cycle of life. In my life, the emergence from a period of darkness into light was a transformative experience. It was akin to the first rays of sunshine after a long, cold night, bringing with it a renewed sense of hope and possibility. This transition wasn’t immediate but a gradual brightening, where each day brought a little more light and a bit more clarity.

    Light often symbolizes knowledge and awareness. In the clarity of light, things that were hidden in the dark become visible, offering new perspectives and understanding.Reflecting on my own experiences, as I emerged from the shadows of my past struggles, I gained a clearer understanding of myself and my journey.

    The light didn’t erase the darkness but illuminated the lessons and strengths I had gained from it. I learned to see my experiences not as failures but as integral parts of my growth.

    The Winter Solstice teaches us the beauty of balance. Just as nature cycles through darkness and light, so do our lives. Embracing this cycle means recognizing that both are necessary and interdependent.

    The Winter Solstice teaches us the beauty of balance. Just as nature cycles through darkness and light, so do our lives. Embracing this cycle means recognizing that both are necessary and interdependent. My journey through darkness into light was not about leaving the dark behind but about integrating it with the light. It was about finding a balance where both could coexist, each giving depth and meaning to the other.

    🌟Celebrating the Solstice: Rituals and Practices

    As the Winter Solstice approaches, it presents a unique opportunity to engage in rituals and practices that honor this special time of year. These activities can help us connect more deeply with the natural rhythm of the seasons and the balance between darkness and light.

    📿Solstice Reflection and Meditation:

    Set aside time for quiet reflection or meditation on the shortest day of the year. This can be a moment to ponder the past year’s journey and set intentions for the coming one. Consider lighting candles to symbolize the return of light.

    🌿 Creating a Solstice Nature Mandala

    Another reflective and creative ritual is making a nature mandala. This can be an outdoor activity, using elements like twigs, stones, leaves, and berries to form a circular pattern, or an indoor arrangement with collected natural items. Constructing the mandala is a meditative practice that can symbolize the balance and harmony of the seasonal cycle, as well as the interconnectedness of life.

    🌲 Nature Walks:

    Engage with the natural world directly by taking a walk in nature on this special day. Observe the stillness of the landscape and the subtle signs of life amidst the winter chill. This ritual is an opportunity to connect with the quiet energy of the season and to find peace in the simplicity of nature’s winter form.

    These rituals offer a way to mindfully engage with the Winter Solstice, appreciating its significance in the natural world and finding a deeper connection with the cycles of the earth.

    The Health Benefits of Embracing Both Darkness and Light

    Understanding and embracing the cycle of darkness and light can have significant benefits for our mental and physical well-being.

    Mental Health Benefits:

    Acknowledging and working through our ‘dark’ periods can lead to greater emotional resilience and self-awareness. Just as nature rests and renews itself in the winter, allowing ourselves time to rest and reflect can lead to a healthier state of mind.

    The gradual increase of light after the solstice can boost our mood and optimism, reminding us that change and growth are constant.

    Physical Health Benefits:

    Aligning with nature’s rhythms can improve our overall health. For example, getting adequate rest during the shorter days can enhance our immune system, while the increased activity during longer days can improve physical fitness.

    Spending time in nature, regardless of the season, has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve overall physical health.

    As we approach the Winter Solstice, this time of profound darkness and anticipated light, we are invited to pause and reflect on the cyclical nature of our lives and the world around us. This solstice isn’t just an astronomical event; it’s a symbolic journey echoing through our personal experiences and the rhythm of the natural world.

    As we approach the Winter Solstice, this time of profound darkness and anticipated light, we are invited to pause and reflect on the cyclical nature of our lives and the world around us. This solstice isn’t just an astronomical event; it’s a symbolic journey echoing through our personal experiences and the rhythm of the natural world.

    In embracing the darkness and welcoming the returning light, we acknowledge the full spectrum of life’s experiences. We recognize that each phase, whether it feels like a prolonged night or the breaking of dawn, has its purpose and beauty. This solstice, let us honor our journeys through both the shadowed valleys and sunlit peaks, understanding that each step is integral to our growth.

    As we engage in the rituals and practices that connect us with this ancient tradition, we tap into a deep well of wisdom that has guided humanity through the ages. Let this solstice be a reminder of our resilience, our capacity for renewal, and the ever-present hope that light brings.

    May the lessons of the solstice guide you through the winter months and into a vibrant and rejuvenating new year. Here’s to finding peace in the stillness, strength in the darkness, and joy in the emerging light.

    Happy Solstice to all, and may the returning light illuminate your path with clarity and purpose.🕯️❄️🌱

  • Harvesting Wisdom: A Gentle Introduction to Winter’s Gifts

    | 7 Min Read |

    Embracing Nature: Boost Your Well-Being by Harvesting Seasonal Wisdom

    As November unfurls and the air grows crisp, we find ourselves on the cusp of a seasonal shift, heading into the holiday season. It’s a time of transformation, where nature invites us to pause amidst the anticipation and busyness.

    Ever noticed how an instant calm washes over you as you step into a serene park or forest?

    This transition into winter offers us an opportunity to reflect on our year and it’s lessons and uncover nature’s gifts for our mental and physical well-being.

    Nature as a Teacher

    Nature serves as an unassuming mentor, its lessons profound. By attuning ourselves to the world around us, we can uncover teachings that resonate deeply with our experiences. The concept of harvesting wisdom involves consciously observing and internalizing these subtle lessons, allowing them to nurture our minds and spirits.

    The transition from autumn to winter is particularly laden with metaphors and wisdom. As leaves relinquish their hold on branches, they mirror the practice of letting go. The trees, now bare, stand resilient against the biting cold, embodying strength and perseverance. The stillness of winter landscapes invites us to find peace amidst chaos and appreciate the beauty in simplicity.

    How does this Help Us?

    One of the most valuable lessons nature teaches us is about Embracing Transitions and Adaptability. Nature’s cycles exemplify resilience and adaptability. Trees shed their leaves to conserve energy during the colder months, demonstrating a strategic and graceful adaptation to changing circumstances1. Such practices are reminders of the importance of flexibility and prudent energy management in our own lives.

    Stillness and Reflection
    Winter’s stillness offers an opportunity for introspection. The peaceful landscapes, often blanketed in snow, echo a sense of calm and reflection. This mirrors our own need for mental quietude, providing us with a space to contemplate and realign our thoughts.

    Mental Health Benefits

    But these aren’t just metaphorical observations; there’s scientific backing to the Mental Health Benefits derived from nature. Nature’s therapeutic effects on mental health are both immediate and enduring. Even brief encounters with nature have been demonstrated to significantly benefit our mental well-being. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research indicates that spending just 20 minutes in an urban park can help individuals feel happier, regardless of whether they engage in exercise during that time 2.

    Exposure to natural settings has been found to reduce mental fatigue and ease stress, thereby promoting a sense of tranquility3. Nature serves as a balm, soothing the senses and allowing for mental rejuvenation.

    One morning just a few weeks ago, I had a particularly triggering encounter with someone that really made me ‘flip my lid’.  I felt myself go from calm and relaxed to boiling mad.  I was driving home after dropping my son off at school and decided to take a make a stop at the Albrecht Nature Playscape in Forest Park instead of just heading home to stew. Even though it was just a brief escape, the calming rustle of leaves and the fresh air helped me regain composure and perspective and 100% turned my morning around.  What could have tainted my whole day, shifted because I took the time to stop and take a walk in nature. 

    Physical Health Perks

    In addition to mental health, let’s not overlook the Physical Health Perks that come with spending time outdoors. Numerous studies indicate that exposure to nature, even in short bursts, can boost immune function and contribute to overall health 4. The practice of Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, in Japan has garnered global attention for its reported benefits, which include a decrease in cortisol levels, suggesting a reduction in stress5.

    Practical Ways to Harvest Nature’s Wisdom

    Nature Walks and Forest Bathing

    Now, let’s explore some Practical Ways to Harvest Nature’s Wisdom. Mindful walks, also known as “forest bathing” or Shinrin-yoku, provide an immersive experience, offering an opportunity to observe and intimately connect with nature. Studies have validated the extensive benefits of forest bathing, indicating significant reductions in stress hormone levels, improvements in mood, and enhanced feelings of vitality 6.

    Journaling and Creative Expression

    Journaling and indulging in creative expression allow you to process and reflect on your experiences with nature. Writing about your observations or creating art inspired by the natural world can be deeply therapeutic and foster a sense of connection. Research indicates that expressive writing can lead to improved mood, well-being, and reduced stress levels 7.

    Nourishment from Nature

    Incorporating seasonal foods and natural elements into your daily life can enhance your overall well-being. Studies have shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental well-being8, and interacting with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress9.

    Reconnect and Rejuvenate: Nature Therapy Sessions

    If you wish to delve deeper, consider Reconnect and Rejuvenate: Nature Therapy Sessions. Embarking on a Harvesting Wisdom Walk or gifting a Guided Forest Bathing or Nature Therapy Session can be a transformative experience.

    Here is what participants of my Forest Bathing + Nature Therapy Sessions have to say about their experience:

    This was SO healing. I have felt so clogged emotionally. Having had a difficult time finding healing and community around processing the grief of losing my Dad. I was able to connect with the feelings that needed to be felt. I was able to be fully present in nature and with the group enjoying nature with the awe and wonder of a child!”

    – Ellen T.

    “My mood has improved, I feel a slowness, a sense if delight, and more connected to my sense of awareness. I noticed I wasn’t worried about others or watching to see what others were doing. I had the ability to tap into myself and my nervous system is calm.”

    – Nina C.

    “I was able to let the noice of the modern world settle out and find the spirit of Mother Earth speak. I felt reconnected and a deepened connection to nature”

    – James L.

    Harvesting wisdom from nature is a timeless practice guiding us toward mental and physical well-being. By observing, connecting, and reflecting, we foster a sense of balance and peace that resonates deeply within our lives.

    By engaging with these practices and reflections, we open ourselves to the gifts that nature freely offers, enriching our lives in ways both subtle and profound.

    References: Why leaves fall from trees in autumn

    International Journal of Environmental Health Research: Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing

    Frontiers in Psychology: Viewing nature scenes positively affects recovery of autonomic function following acute-mental stress

    International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: Health Benefits of Nature Experiences: Psychological, Social and Cultural Processes

    PubMed Central: Psychological effects of forest environments on healthy adults: Shinrin-yoku (forest-air bathing, walking) as a possible method of stress reduction

    Public Health: The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan

    American Psychological Association: Writing to Heal

    Social Science & Medicine: Lettuce be happy: A longitudinal UK study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being

    Journal of Physiological Anthropology: Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study

  • Hygge in Nature: Embracing Coziness Outdoors

    As the season shifts into autumn, I find myself longing for comfort and coziness. 

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “Hygge” (pronounced hoo-ga).  

    If you’re not familiar, Hygge is a Danish word that represents a concept and lifestyle rooted in coziness, contentment, and well-being. Overall, Hygge encourages a slower, more mindful way of living and finding joy in the everyday moments. 

    As a Forest and Nature Therapy Guide, I’ve been contemplating how we can cultivate this feeling of Hygge outdoors, immersing ourselves in the soothing embrace of the natural world.

    Nature has an inherent capacity to comfort us if we’re open to sitting with her. She’s a living, breathing entity of which we are an integral part.

    One of my most cherished encounters with this comforting aspect of nature took place last August during the immersion portion of my Forest and Nature Therapy Guide Certification in the picturesque landscapes of Vermont. As part of the experience, we embarked on a four-hour solo walk akin to a silent retreat. We were encouraged to pack a bag with items that would accompany us throughout the day, and the only rules were, 1. if we were injured or needed help we were to blow a whistle 3 times (we were all given whistles for emergencies) and 2. Should we encounter anyone during our solo walk, we were to act as though we didn’t see them. The entire four hours was meant to be a silent, alone journey.

    I gathered my essentials into my bag: an assortment of pens and pencils (my pen-and-paper obsession is undeniable🤓), my favorite journal, a book of meditations, some snacks, a warm blanket, and a flask of hot tea. The location for this unique journey was the enchanting Basecamp at Beaver Falls, a place that encapsulated the quintessential Vermont charm.

    For those who’ve never visited Vermont, it’s precisely as depicted in the movies – densely forested, lushly green, and radiating an innate sense of peace. As I strolled, I couldn’t help but revel in the soft, springy forest floor, a result of years of pine needles from the towering hemlock trees that graced the landscape. Tiny pinecones lay scattered, creating a delicate mosaic.

    After walking the grounds for a half hour or so, taking in the grounds in silence, I came upon a tucked away spot on top of a ridge and decided it was the perfect place to settle. I laid down my blanket, relishing the tranquil surroundings. There, amid towering pine trees and flourishing ferns, I found myself sitting in silent communion with nature.

    I retrieved my flask of tea and, as the warmth spread through my fingertips, I was surprised by the profound coziness that enveloped me. It struck me that this was my Sunday morning ritual back home: sipping tea and playing with my pens and journal. Here I was, thousands of miles away, replicating the ritual. It was a moment of profound comfort and familiarity, an experience that touched me deeply.

    This day etched a revelation in my heart – not only is nature profoundly healing, but it can also be incredibly cozy when we open ourselves to its embrace. The memory of that day continues to remind me of the warmth and comfort that nature generously offers to those who seek it.

    Nature holds a wealth of comfort for all of us. It’s a warmth that many might not expect, but one that is readily available. Let’s explore how you can find your own sense of Hygge in nature.

    Discovering Hygge in Nature

    Hygge is more than just a set of practices; it’s a way of engaging with the world around us. To discover Hygge in nature, we must open to seeing the inherent connection between the coziness we seek and the natural world.

    Here are five activities that allow you to cultivate this sense of comfort while immersed in the outdoors to get you started:

    🌲 Forest Bathing and Nature Therapy Walk:

    Step into the woods and experience a mindful forest bathing session. Allow yourself to wander through a nature setting at a local park. Focus on your  breath and the sensations that surround you. Hygge begins with a deep appreciation for the present moment, and the forest or green  space  provides the perfect backdrop for finding this sense of coziness. I offer public and private Guided Forest Bathing and Nature Therapy Walks if you’d like some help getting started with this practice.

    🪵 Cozy Campfire Evenings:

    Gather your loved ones around a crackling campfire. Share stories, laughter, and warm drinks while the campfire’s glow blankets you with a sense of warmth and contentment. Nature’s music, from the rustling leaves to the distant night sounds, will provide a comforting symphony. 

    🍁 Autumn Leaf Art:

    During your forest (or local park) excursions, collect fallen leaves and pinecones. Use these natural treasures to create ephemeral art on the forest floor. Stay in the moment by focusing on the texture, colors and details of each leaf. It’s an opportunity to express your creativity and to cherish the simplicity of being in nature.

    🫖 Nature’s Tea Time:

    Prepare a cup of herbal tea using ingredients from your garden or your favorite local tea company. Let the flavors and scents of the plants envelop you, offering a soothing and refreshing experience. Hygge is all about savoring the simple pleasures, and a cup of herbal tea in nature is a perfect embodiment of this principle.

    🕯️ Candlelight/Flashlight Night Walks:

    As the sun sets, embark on a tranquil night walk with flashlight or even candlelight as your guide. Nature takes on a different character after dark, one that invites reflection and introspection. This unique perspective on the natural world enhances the feeling of coziness.

    Health Benefits of Hygge in Nature:

    The integration of Hygge and nature has profound physical, mental, emotional, and relational benefits. As we connect with the natural world, we shed the stress of modern life, and begin to feel more grounded and in tune with our surroundings. The mental clarity and emotional balance we find in nature can bring forth a sense of contentment that radiates into our daily lives. Moreover, sharing these experiences with loved ones deepens our connections and cultivates lasting bonds.

    We’ll soon be shifting out of Autumn and into winter and all the hustle and bustle that comes along with it. As the season shifts and life’s pace begins to quicken, embracing Hygge in nature becomes an essential part of our well-being. The cozy moments we share with the natural world not only bring comfort and contentment but also renew our spirits. 

    So, this autumn, why not join me for a guided Forest Bathing and Nature Therapy walk?

    I invite you to experience the depth of Hygge in nature and nurture your well-being in the soothing embrace of the outdoors.

    Let’s journey together to discover the beauty of slowing down, finding comfort, and experiencing the magic of Hygge in the natural world. 🫶

    In Peace and Presence,
    Jess 🌿

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  • 🌿🫶 Sunday Self Care: Forest Bathing to manage holiday stress

    Are you starting to stress about the upcoming holiday season, aka stress and anxiety season as I like to call it?

    I know I am 🥴.

    When I start to feel overwhelmed, anxious or overridden by my emotions, I take it as a sign that I need to slow down and get outside.

    If you’re starting to feel the holiday season whirlwind of emotions creep in, I invite you to take some time today to sneak in some self-care before the holiday craziness begins.

    Here is a simple, easy practice you can implement to reduce stress, soothe your nervous system and manage anxiety.

    🌿 Sit Spot practice

    Find a sit spot:​
    A sit spot is a location you can return to over and over. Find a spot outside where you feel comfortable. It doesn’t need to be deep in the woods but it is ideal to have some greenery around you. I have a few sit spots, one in my backyard, the front yard, and a few different spots at my favorite local parks. Convenience is key. You want this to be a spot you can visit repeatedly and as frequently as you want. A simple patch of grass by the sidewalk will do or you can even find a spot inside with a houseplant if going outside isn’t an option. You can sit or lie down, be in a chair, or be on the ground. Make yourself comfortable.

    ​The practice:​
    Spend 30 minutes simply sitting and observing all that is around you in your sit spot. The practice of simply sitting and observing is where mother nature invites peace & presence in. I know this sounds crazy and the biggest obstacle will be giving yourself permission to just sit. You may have an edge around “just sitting” for that long so feel free to start with 10 or 15 minutes and build your way up. I promise it will be worth it.

    Once you’re comfortable, begin to call in all your senses. Start with your sense of direction. Is there a particular direction you want to face while in your sit spot? Play around with this as though your body is a radio and you are tuning in to the direction that feels just right for you.

    Once settled, don’t just observe with your eyes but try observing with your ears. What noises do you hear? How close or far away are the sounds? Tune into your sense of smell. Are you picking up any scents? What about taste? Can you breathe in as though sipping air through a straw and pick up any tastes?

    Try simply sitting. Just sitting is also enough.

    Extra Credit:

    Sit Spot + Nature Journal
    ​Create or purchase a journal to record observations at your sit spot. It doesn’t have to be fancy or special, it can be paper stapled together. Creating a journal can be part of the process (kids especially love this). After spending 20 minutes in your sit spot use the remaining time to record in your nature journal. This can take many forms: written, sketched, poetry, prose, photos, voice recordings, videos, and collected objects. Whatever feels best for you.

    ​Journaling Ideas:​
    There are no rules or requirements for your nature journal. You might want to record some observations about nature; what the weather is like, what sounds you hear from the trees or other plants nearby, what the clouds are like, and what patterns or textures you see.

    You may want to record what’s happening inside you. Your mood, any inspirations or insights that come to you.

    You can record what you pick up with your senses, what you hear, smell, feel, and taste. Maybe try assigning a color to each sound, texture, smell, etc, and see what unfolds.

    You can craft a story based on what you observed. Make up a storyline to go with your observations using your imagination.

    The goal here is expression, not perfection.

    ​Cultivate your practice:
    ​This is a practice. There is no end destination or end goal, it’s really a matter of finding the right amount of time that fits your schedule. Aim for a weekly session and see how that feels. Consistency is key.

    You might not think this small practice would have a big impact but I promise you it will. When we can be still and just witness what is going on around us in nature, something opens up inside us. We start to shift perspective. We start to feel more connected to our world, others, and ourselves.

    Give it a try and let me know how it goes!