Forest Bathing in Colombia: an encounter with the restorative power of natural biodiversity

Forest Bathing is arriving in Colombia, a country of enormous biodiversity, whose inhabitants enjoy having great geographical richness around them. The country was cataloged by the World Conservation Surveillance Center as one of the “megadiverse” countries, ranking third in live species and second in bird species.

In Colombia, different thermal floors coexist, mountain ranges, deserts, plains, volcanoes, jungles, wastelands and coasts. The fauna and flora are among the richest and most biodiverse in the world and Colombian cities are connected by vast natural strips of great richness, which has led to a rise in adventure tourism and ecotourism in recent decades. All of these characteristics have created a great interest in the Colombian population to get a better understanding of its enormous number of native species of fauna and flora and the conservation of forests. Therefore, the practice of Forest Bathing in Colombia is an opportunity for Colombians to experience contact with nature in a different way, centered on sensory immersion and contemplation.

The relationship between the Colombian subcultures and nature has very interesting mixtures since they converge the indigenous traditions of different areas of the country, whose relationship of care with the land is a millenary legacy, together with the encounter of urban cultures with nature, which shows the signs of a type of tourism that is often devastating and unconscious with the environment.

Thus, in recent decades, awareness of a culture of greater respect and environmental care has been promoted by state institutions, the academic community and environmentalists, and even a return to ancestral wisdom and traditional medicine of our indigenous communities. This allows the relationship of care and respect for the environment, as well as the understanding that health is seen to be directly influenced by the diversity of the natural environment. This is starting to become more present in the consciousness of people.

In this important relationship between humans and nature, Forest Bathing, in my opinion, is a practice based on scientific knowledge and the culture of Japanese contemplation, which also contributes to returning human’s natural tendency to be surprised, to marvel, and to feel comfortable in the natural environment. But these are not the only benefits, but also the possibility of educating people in the knowledge that sustains Forest Bathing, as well as the demonstration of the positive health impacts of being in contact with the chemistry present in forests and nature.

Although hikes are part of the Colombian tradition, and hundreds of people from the cities go out every weekend to share natural public spaces with their families, the proposal of a walk like Forest Bathing (or Shinrin-yoku ),  silent contact and a slow sensory immersion in nature, is not exactly part of Colombian popular culture. However, we begin to see in our society the receptivity and acceptance of different practices of personal care and well-being.

This way, the component of nature connection and restorative practice of physical and emotional health offered by Forest Bathing experiences will be able to generate a greater acceptance in a population that does not escape the elevated rates of anxiety, stress, and depression that are also present in the rest of the world.

In my approach to the exercise of guiding Forest Bathing in Colombia, within the model of the Forest Therapy Institute (FTI), I’ve discovered that the enormous possibilities to invite the participant to explore and encounter surprise and wonder in the forest, offered by our geography and natural richness, are endless.

The fact that our forest trails are normally found crossing mountains in narrow spaces, many of them with a high density of foliage, may raise some interesting differences to the Japanese experience or of other countries. However, in this tropical area of the world, the richness of sounds, smells, and beings related to the forest has such a magical effect on the silent group of hikers, that it does not take long for its restorative power to be felt.

Forest Bathing in Colombia can definitely be a unique and unmissable experience for Colombians and international tourists who want to connect with a land of impressive abundance, accompanied by a majestic symphony of birds, insects, rivers and flora, in the opening of all senses, thus installing a very special calm.

 

  • By Emma Sánchez, Certified Forest Bathing Guide by the Forest Therapy Institute. Psychologist. Master in Clinical Psychology. She was Degree Director for the Project of the psychology degree at the Universidad Javeriana Cali, in research on Emotional Self-regulation in children through comics.

@lluviadebosque / @esmindful

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