This year, Muskoka Conservancy had our first forest therapy walk in August as part of our Nature Quest program. The walk was lead by Fran Mills, of Simcoe Muskoka Forest Therapy and involved a slow walk through our Upjohn Nature Reserve, with 'invitations' to explore the natural surroundings.

Even though it's a first for us, forest therapy is not a new idea. Forest therapy was first started in Japan and is called Shinrin-Yoku, or "Forest Bathing". The practice involves spending time in forested areas for the purpose of enhancing health, wellness, and happiness. Another important facet of forest therapy is being conscious of the natural world around you. Some of the 'introductions' use all five senses: touch, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. It's a very unique feeling to focus on some of the senses that we don't commonly focus on.

Even though we all know that spending time in nature is good for you, there are actually a number of studies looking at the health benefits of forest therapy. Forest therapy helps relieve stress and prevents excess stress from building up. Walking in nature can also boost the immune system and potentially assist in fighting many illnesses. Finally, trees release compounds call phytoncides. These compounds improve the activity of our frontline line of defense against diseases.

So even if you're not going on a guided forest therapy walk, make sure to spend some time in the natural world. Your body will thank you!