Get your shinrin-yoku on this fall

Bunchberry Meadows Conservation Area, AB (Photo by Kyle Marquardt)

Bunchberry Meadows Conservation Area, AB (Photo by Kyle Marquardt)

September 23, 2019 | by Raechel Bonomo

The first time I heard about shinrin-yoku, I was stuck in westbound traffic along Highway 401. The radio was tuned to CBC, where the content discussed on the morning show usually offers a reprieve from whatever lies ahead on the commuter-packed roads.

Despite it being 6:30 a.m. and I had yet to have my coffee, my ears perked up when the concept of shinrin-yoku was introduced. Developed in the 1980s, this Japanese term loosely translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere.” This form of nature therapy, also known as forest bathing, is meant to provide relief from mental illnesses like anxiety and depression through exposure to nature. It has become a cornerstone of preventative health care in Japan, but its benefits can be reaped worldwide. When you surround yourself with nature, your stress levels may be reduced, blood pressure lowered and mood improved. Spending time in a forest has also been proven as an effective way to improve mental health.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is working to protect natural areas across the country where people can explore and immerse themselves in nature. NCC’s Nature Destinations program invites you to take a take a journey through some of these places — replete with forests — for an unforgettable, meditative experience.

Learn about forests perfect for shinrin-yoku across Canada, below:

Chase Woods Nature Preserve, BC

Mt.Tzouhalem moonrise, Chase Woods, BC (Photo by Mike Szaszik)

Mt.Tzouhalem moonrise, Chase Woods, BC (Photo by Mike Szaszik)

Chase Woods is an ecologically and culturally significant piece of the Cowichan Valley mosaic. Rising from sea level to almost 400 metres at the summit of Mt. Tzouhalem, Chase Woods is home to a microcosm of rare and diverse coastal Douglas-fir forest.

Bunchberry Meadows, Alberta

This property features some of the only true old-growth forests remaining in Alberta. Here, the jack pines, sand ridges, groundwater fens and wetlands have created tremendous landscape diversity.

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Nebo, Saskatchewan

Nebo, SK (Photo by Matthew Braun/NCC staff)

Nebo, SK (Photo by Matthew Braun/NCC staff)

Nebo offers a place to hike among a remarkable transition zone that bridges boreal forest with prairie grasslands. You may come across NCC’s forest restoration work that began in 2017; more than 32,000 white spruce seedlings have been planted with the generous support of Tree Canada.

Elk Glen, Manitoba

Adjacent to the south boundary of Riding Mountain National Park, the Elk Glen property spans 646 hectares (1,596 acres). This incredible property features hilly topography and a diverse mix of habitat types, including mixed forests, wetlands and prairies.

Backus Woods, Ontario

Backus Woods, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

Backus Woods, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

Backus Woods is a spectacular gem in the heart of the Carolinian life zone, one of Canada’s smallest ecoregions. While here, take in the older-growth Carolinian forest and a variety of unique Carolinian species, including prothonotary and cerulean warbler, tuliptree and black gum.

Réserve naturelle du Boisé-Papineau, Quebec

Make time for the ideal family outing, just minutes from Montreal. Cast your gaze upward as you wander through a 200-year-old beech forest. Play a game to see who can spot an owl first.

Thomas Island, PEI

Thomas Island, PEI (Photo by Mike Dembeck)

Thomas Island, PEI (Photo by Mike Dembeck)

Grab your paddle and your sea kayak and head to Murray Harbour to explore Thomas Island, a tranquil gem and birders' paradise on PEI’s eastern shore. The red sand beaches, mature white spruce forest and untouched salt marshes on the island provide habitat for many species, including great blue heron, belted kingfisher, northern gannet and other shorebirds.

Lincoln Wetland Natural Area, New Brunswick

This property features a diverse mix of marshes and old field forest, as well as a floodplain forest that contains silver maple, basswood and the endangered butternut tree. Just a short drive from Fredericton, the 8.5-hectare (21-acre) property along the banks of the majestic St. John River is habitat for species at risk.

Maddox Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador

Maddox Cove, NL (Photo by NCC)

Maddox Cove, NL (Photo by NCC)

NCC’s Maddox Cove Nature Reserve is located along Newfoundland’s spectacular East Coast Trail, a world-class coastal hiking trail that unites genuine wilderness hiking with richly historic communities. Enjoy the salt air and sounds of seabirds as you pass through coastal forests and open areas with grasses, raspberries and wildflowers.

Pugwash Estuary, Nova Scotia

The Pugwash River Estuary is a mixture of forest and salt marsh bordering some of the most sought-after oceanfront property in Nova Scotia. Wind along the trail through mature and regenerating Acadian forest and skirt the edge of the salt marsh, where vistas across the estuary await.

Want to benefit both yourself and nature during your shinrin-yoku adventure? Explore some of NCC’s volunteer opportunities in forests across Canada by checking out Conservation Volunteer events here.

To learn more about NCC’s Nature Destinations across Canada, visit naturedestinations.ca.

Raechel Bonomo (Photo by Chase Wastesicoot)

About the Author

Raechel Bonomo is the internal communications lead at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Read more about Raechel Bonomo.

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