Weather Science: Forest Therapy at Michigan State University's Tollgate Farm

Weather Science: Forest Therapy at Michigan State University's Tollgate Farm

Novi, Michigan. (CBS Detroit) – A healthy life is a good life. At Michigan State University's Tollgate Farms in Novi, we've learned that forest therapy is a great way to have good mental health no matter the weather.

“Forest therapy is a practice that started in Japan in the 1980s. In Japan it's called shinrin-yoku. It literally translates as forest bathing,” said Ellen Koehler, director of education at Michigan State University's Tollgate Farm.

“Forest therapy is very different from hiking. It's really about being here versus there. Being present in the moment. And it's slow and meditative, but there are many elements that make up therapeutic forest walking that are there in a certain specific sequence.”

Weather and climate are a big component and affect every session, Kohler says.

“But beauty is what we call phenology,” she said. “The study of the cycle of the seasons and how they relate to the climate, the land, the animals and the plants in the forest. And so we return to this forest throughout all the seasons, so that from week to week or day to day the forest changes.”

Seeing the beauty in nature by experiencing its changes is not the only benefit that forest therapy provides.

“The benefits of a forest therapy session or walk have been shown to last for up to seven days. They include physical benefits such as lower blood pressure, lower cortisol, a stress hormone boost, and a boost to the immune system from chemicals secreted by the body.” “The trees are actually emitting at all times, and you just feel calm and relaxed,” Kohler said.

Forest therapy does not always have to take place over a large area, or even in a forest, suddenly.

All over the country and the world, in different climates and at different times of day, Koehler explains where forest therapy can take place, “It can be a very small area. It's really a forest experience, but it can also be nature therapy. So you can experience that in A meadow on the beach, it could be in any kind of nature.”

Forest therapy helps all types of people from all different backgrounds and all different age groups.

“We have offered many sessions here at Tollgate for teachers, first responders, those in treatment, and hospice patients. But it benefits everyone of all ages.” Kohler said. “The two courses are never the same, and that's because of the phenology of the season, and the time of year, and what's going on that day? Well, how much breeze is there? Is it raining? And then it's especially because of the people who attend, and each of them brings their lived experience to the group.”

(tags for translation) Meteorology

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