My inspiration to become a Forest Therapy Guide has been an ongoing process. Since childhood, I have enjoyed the adventures and pleasures of spending time outdoors. You can read more about my wanderlust and dream-pursuing on the FAQ—Big Epics page found HERE. As I got to be an adult, I began more intentionally spending time outdoors when I needed rest and healing.
For many years I used time in nature as a remedy for stress amongst the chaos of raising a large family. Whether one child was upset or we were all going stir-crazy at home, I would load everyone in the car and head for a local park. It was wonderful to have calm children again as we headed home. I often shared this coping skill as an inspiration for any fellow homeschooling mamas who would listen.
A decade ago, our family walked through significant challenges and tragedy. My husband fought cancer with a poor prognosis of survival past five years. (He is now cancer free—yay!) Then one of our teen sons died unexpectedly. In the aftermath of these blows, I became much more intentional about spending regular time in nature. Somehow, the grief lessened as I walked by a river, stared up at forest trees, or soaked in the sun at a local park. In the aftermath, our family spent a number of years as nomads—finding solace and healing in months of wandering in an RV, followed by time spent living among the mesas and canyons of remote New Mexico.
Three years ago, I discovered another benefit of spending time in the woods. My youngest daughter (now 18 yrs old) struggles with mental illness and extreme anxiety. Even with medication and therapy, life is difficult for her with regular mood swings and meltdowns. She has always craved time outdoors, even as a toddler. In fall of 2015, Daughter and I left home to spend 6 weeks backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. It was both shocking and exciting to discover that she has almost no mood dysregulation when we are in the forest.
After returning home from that first trip, I started collecting all of the articles I could find about the connection between nature and wellness. This has given me inspiration to become more intentional about spending time outdoors for therapeutic reasons in between annual expeditions back to the Appalachian Trail. I share our experiences by blogging here on The Big Epic . But I couldn’t figure out a viable way to directly facilitate others building their own healing connections with nature.
In 2018, I discovered the discipline of “Forest Therapy.” Gaining certification as a Forest Therapy Guide was the perfect next step in my growing awareness of the importance of personal connection and healing with nature. I was excited to find that I didn’t have to invent my own program to share these benefits with others…I can learn from the inspiration, experiences and training offered by others already active in this discipline as I bring Forest Therapy to those in my local community.
I completed an intensive training program with a Forest Therapy certification organization in March 2019. For ongoing support and continuing education, I am in the process of joining the Global Institute of Forest Therapy (GIFT), a different international organization. I highly recommend this group to anyone who wants more information about this practice and/or is considering completing training for themselves.