Inspired by the Japanese philosophy "shirin-yoku", meaning "forest ("shirin") bathing ("yoku")", the Western world has been developing a growing fascination for the healing power of forests. In Center of Portugal region, Bussaco National Forest will be the first certified Healing Forest in the Iberian Peninsula. A soul-soothing place to connect with nature, leaving all noise behind.
Not all forests can be certified as therapy forests, for there are several criteria to be fulfilled, namely: the forest must be the most nature possible with few noise; it must have good air quality, as well as visual protection against wind and walking trails with several difficulty and effort degrees. The therapy forest must also offer regular activities with well-trained forest therapists and relaxing treatments.
This certification is given by the International Certification Office Healing Forest of BioCon Valley® GmbH that coordinates these processes on an international level. In Portugal, Destinature - Agency for the Development of Nature Tourism is in charge of therapy forest certification and it is also a partner of International Certification Office Healing Forest of BioCon Valley® GmbH.
Japanese believe that being close to trees can make us happier and healthier. Forest bathing is all about being connected to nature through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. The main goal is to unplug from the world and from all electronic devices by focusing on the natural environment around us. Hearing the sounds of nature, seeing the leaves dancing to the wind and the sunlight play with them, smelling the natural scents, touching the trees or the ground and feeling at one with nature.
Forest therapy has proved highly beneficial for human health by reducing blood pressure, stress and anxiety levels and reinforcing the immune defense system, along with cardiovascular and breathing functions.
Forests with waterfalls have also a great therapy potencial, because of the soothing power of water. Water is energy and wisdom. And it also makes us calmer. Waterfalls present a high concentration of negative ions that provide a sense of well-being and pure air. In opposition, in urban centres we breathe few pure air and there is a great concentration of positive ions.
Forests provide us a sense of connection, more energy and inner strength. They spark joy and a feeling of happiness.
When it comes to finding calm and relaxation, there is no one-size-fits-all solution – it differs from person to person. It is important to find a place that suits you. If you love the smell of damp soil, you will be most relaxed where the natural landscape provides it. Then the effects of the forest will be more powerful. Maybe you have a place in the countryside that reminds you of your childhood or of happy times in the past. These places will be special to you and your connection with them will be strong. Dr. Qing Li, Chairman of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine
Certified by Forest Therapy Hub, the active tourism company Malcata Eco Experience organises forest bathing activities in Serra da Malcata Natural Reserve. The founder and owner of this company, Tiago Alves, is a certified forest bathing guide who will lead you through this journey of self-discovery and connection to nature. These guided tours can be done in English, Spanish and Portuguese and can last up to 3 hours.