About the forest therapy walks I offer
The world we live in is fast-paced, fragmented, and often stressful. It’s all too easy to spend most of our time inside – either in our house, workplace, or car – juggling to-do lists and staring at screens. Even when we do get the chance to be outside our minds are often elsewhere. A forest therapy walk provides the perfect antidote.
Forest therapy allows you to “press pause". It's an opportunity to have some time away from life's challenges, reconnect with yourself, relax, and remember how good it feels to be out in nature. People often describe a feeling of “coming back home” during a walk. This makes perfect sense as we humans spent many thousands of years living within the natural world. Describing it as “forest therapy” is quite new, but it’s something we’ve always done.
The terms “forest therapy” and “forest bathing” – essentially, they’re the same thing – were coined in Japan in the early 1980s. (Over there it’s called shinrin-yoku: “shinrin” means forest, and “yoku” means bath.) Busy city life was causing a surge of stress and ill health, and people were encouraged to spend more time in nature to help alleviate this health crisis. Forest therapy has been huge in Japan ever since, and a lot of research has been conducted in recent decades confirming that it’s good for both our physical and mental health. To name just a few benefits, forest bathing can lower blood pressure, reduce cortisol levels (a stress hormone), improve mood and sleep, lessen anxiety, and strengthen our immune system. More information about how forest therapy improves wellbeing is available to delve into elsewhere on this website.
A forest therapy walk is a relaxing experience. Each walk is two to three hours long, but it isn’t at all strenuous. Typically, we cover no more than a mile, and there are plenty of opportunities to rest.
During the walk I will invite you to slow down and explore your surroundings. I'll suggest a variety of simple activities to engage your senses and pique your curiosity. Most of the walk is in silence although there are opportunities to share your experiences with the group too, if you wish. You don’t have to do anything on the walk that doesn’t feel comfortable; this is a time to honour whatever your body and heart most need.
We round off the walk with an informal tea ceremony. This provides an opportunity for us to gather together to share and digest the experiences we’ve had, and to sample some tea brewed from locally foraged plants. Smiles and friendly chatter usually conclude the walk. Forest therapy not only helps us reconnect with ourselves and with the natural "more-than-human" world, it can help us feel more connected to our fellow human beings too.
I offer public walks, one-to-one sessions, and also happily arrange walks for private groups and organizations.
Coronavirus update: Government guidance on social distancing and hygiene is followed on all my walks. Even before the pandemic I preferred to keep groups small to provide a sense of spaciousness, and group size is currently capped at five participants. The format of a forest therapy walk lends itself to safe social distancing – we can easily remain 2 metres apart throughout – meaning that forest bathing remains a relaxing and nourishing experience.
A scientist by training (first-class Biosciences degree followed by 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry), I decided to escape the corporate world and follow my heart.
I love to learn, practice and share simple, yet often profound, ways to support health and happiness. I’m a certified teacher with the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi (IIQTC), and I trained as a mindfulness teacher with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University, and also with Breathworks. I started to teach Tai Chi Easy™, qigong, and mindfulness in 2007, under the name of Top Form Natural Mindfulness.
Over the years, I've come to recognize that being outside in nature is where I feel most at home. Guiding forest therapy walks is, literally, a dream come true as I can share what I most love with others.
I should emphasize that I’m not a therapist. As a Guide, I work in partnership with the natural world but I’m not the one offering the therapy. In forest therapy, the forest is the therapist. When we humans allow ourselves to step back into nature and open up our awareness to what’s happening, all sorts of remarkable things can occur. Essentially, the forest helps us to remember what’s important. I’ve already experienced many times how the forest has a wonderful knack of knowing and offering us just what we need. My job as a Guide is simply to help the forest be able to do this.
When I'm not outside, I offer business writing services and especially enjoy supporting organizations which promote wellbeing, sustainability and nature connection.
Find out more
I offer forest bathing walks in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and surrounding areas.
Take a look at my social media accounts (see the links on the "contact" tab), and don't hesitate to get in touch for more information. My email address is Lisa@LisaTopping.com.
A few pictures from recent walks: