Posted 1:28 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, 2022
UW-La Crosse students prepare La Crosse trail for community forest bathing
Go for a walk in the woods.
Leave your cell phone behind.
Close your eyes and open your senses — one at a time.
Disengaging from a hectic lifestyle and engaging in a slow, silent and mindful walk using the senses is called forest bathing or shinrin-yoku in Japanese.
The practice, originating in Japan in the 1980s, is proven to reduce stress and improve overall health. It’s a chance to reconnect to the present moment and truly notice what is happening in the physical world.
Students, along with La Crosse Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department and the Outdoor Recreation Alliance, spent several days this fall outfitting trails in Hixon Forest for forest therapy awareness and practice. The students in a recreation facilities maintenance course added quiet zones for meditation, forest therapy, and more along the Hickory Trail. A forest therapy class created forest therapy engagement messages to go on interpretive signs for the zones for trail users.
The outdoor trail additions came after Assistant Professor Namyun Kil's Nature and Forest Therapy class completed a community trail assessment project in fall 2020 and 2021 in collaboration with La Crosse Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department and the Outdoor Recreation Alliance. The project aimed to determine the suitability of Hickory Trail in Hixon Forest for positive forest therapy experiences.
UWL Senior and Therapeutic Recreation Major Paige Coleman says the practice allows you to connect with the Earth for your own self-care or the care of others. You learn P.O.P., she says, or pleasure of the present moment.
Kil’s classes are working to spread the practice beyond UWL students. They’ve coordinated programming in forest bathing for children at Chileda and Aptiv, centers dedicated to serving children and adults with disabilities, cognitive and behavioral challenges.
Coleman plans to earn her master’s in therapeutic recreation at UWL and wants to eventually work with children and people with physical disabilities. Forest bathing could be a great tool, she says.
“This is something everyone needs in life whether they are disabled or not,” says Coleman.
For more information about forest bathing and how to do it, read this FAQ on Forest bathing.