Posted: Nov. 15, 2017 12:01 am
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP — In 1901, conservationist John Muir put into words a sentiment that Sussex County residents understand all too well.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home,” Muir wrote. “Wilderness is a necessity.”
While the woods and the wilds have long since served as quiet refuges for the over-stressed and over-worked, it has only been within the past recent decades or so that scientists have begun to study the real, biological effects that spending time in nature can have on the human body.
In Japan, the concept of forest therapy, known as “Shinrin-Yoku,” has been growing in popularity for about 35 years. Practitioners of Shinrin-Yoku — or forest bathing, at it is simply called — take to the forests to meditate, indulge the senses and find relief from the stresses of everyday life.
Now, the practice is beginning to take root, so to speak, across the western world.
On Saturday, naturalist Lynn Groves will lead a guided forest therapy session through the meadows and woodlands of Kittatinny Valley State Park.
“Hiking through the woods to find peace is obviously not a new concept,” Groves said. “The difference between forest therapy and a simple stroll through the tress is that Shinrin-Yoku participants are really encouraged to slow down, relax and immerse themselves in the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and textures of a natural setting.”
Throughout the two-hour program, Groves will lead a small group down a wide and accessible woods road, stopping frequently to allow visitors the chance to breathe in the air and examine their surroundings.
“We intentionally set a very slow, easy pace,” she said. “We will only be covering about a mile of ground in two hours, which is about half as fast as people normally walk. This is not exercise, at least not in the traditional cardiac sense. Forest therapy is more…