JACKSON – Connecting with nature is taking on new meaning these days as the practice of forest bathing, a mindful approach to walking in local woodlands, gains in popularity.
New Jersey Forest Service naturalist Candace Lillie leads woodland walks at the Forest
Resource Education Center, 495 Don Connor Blvd., Jackson, that encourage people to immerse themselves in the natural world, engaging all their senses in the forest environment to reap the benefits of a deepening connection with nature.
There is no charge to take part in the program “Welcome Summer with Forest Bathing,” which will take place on Aug. 22 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Forest Resource Education Center. To register for the program, which is required, call 732-928-2360 or email FREC@dep.nj.gov
Open to individuals age 15 and older, the program will guide participants to immerse
their senses in the forest environment.
Participants should dress for the weather as the program is held outdoors, and to wear long pants and soft closed-toe shoes to protect against poison ivy and ticks.
“I encompass a lot of touching of trees, touching leaves. It’s very tactile. It’s not a hike, it’s a slow, sensory stroll. It’s all about relaxation and taking in everything around you
“We do a lot of aromatherapy using the leaves and needles from some of the pines.
It’s touching and smell, and some tasting when there is fruit on some of the trees,”
she explained, “and, of course, a lot of visual and hearing,” Lillie said.
“We try and actually listen for the wind, depending on the day. At one point I have
people lay on their back, we use the picnic tables and we watch the clouds. It’s
different for the different seasons, too, and for different days. There is some easy
stretching and movement with the trees.
“There is a short nature walk where we do aromatherapy with different ground herbs and leaves. … It’s all about unplugging. No phones allowed, no chatting. Not that we don’t talk, we do. We make short stops and we talk about things, but it’s all about the trees and the plants and nature,” said Lillie, a former science teacher and respiratory therapist.
“I have taught deep breathing exercises on all different levels. It really does work, it helps lower the blood pressure and lower adrenaline levels and we have known that for years in healthcare. Now the Navy SEALs are using it for deep breathing exercises,” she said.
Lillie said she led the forest walks, which are modeled on the Japanese practice of
Shinrin-Yoku forest therapy, until the advent of winter and resumed with the arrival of
The Forest Resource Education Center is part of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The grounds are open to the public from dawn to dusk and the
Interpretive Center hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.