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Boyd Hill to host ‘forest bathing’ walks promoting mindfulness in nature

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Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. Photo: Joe Opaleski.

In a “technology-driven world,” staff at St. Petersburg’s Boyd Hill Nature Preserve encourage the public to reconnect with the outdoors during their upcoming forest bathing walks.

Originating in Japan during the 1980s, forest bathing, or “shinrin-yoku,” means to take in the forest.

The practice began as a medical study that encouraged people to slow down and enjoy the benefits of immersing oneself in nature. During coronavirus lockdowns, WebMD recommended forest bathing as a way to relieve stress and enjoy healthy leisure time without coming in close contact with others.

Now, Andrea Andersen, a supervisor at Boyd Hill, thinks it’s the perfect way to help visitors experience the preserve’s different ecosystems, while enjoying the company of others in a safe, meditative environment.

“People are surprised to hear from strangers they know nothing about, and feel a connection like they’re family,” she explained.

The monthly walks, set to begin in October, will take participants to each of Boyd Hill’s different ecosystems, where leads will invite people to open their senses and, eventually, to share their experiences with each other.

Positioned on the banks of Lake Maggiore, forest bathers will immerse themselves in swampland with baby alligators and buzzing dragonflies, sand scrub rustling with gopher tortoises shuffling in and out of their burrows, and finally, the wax myrtle pond.

Andersen says the walk will be physically gentle, going a short distance at a relaxed pace. She says the experience is not for exercise, but to “bridge ourselves with nature.”

According to WebMD, researchers from the University of Exeter in southwest England found that spending two hours a week in nature is conducive to good mental and physical health. 

Staff at Boyd Hill also want to use the forest bathing walks to connect with international visitors interested in experiencing nature and mindfulness. 

Andersen is currently working with the City of St. Pete’s Cultural Affairs Office to invite residents of its sister city in Takamatsu, Japan to visit and participate in the upcoming events.

The first forest bathing walk will take place Saturday, Oct. 16 at 9:30 a.m., and will allow up to 15 participants. It will be included with admission to the preserve, which is $3 for adults and $1.50 for children.

Ongoing walks will likely take place on the third Saturday of every month, during the fall, winter and spring. 

 

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1 Comment

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    Sheree D

    August 18, 2021at2:37 am

    Disappointed that it is only on Saturday’s. How about during the week for all our retirees?

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