“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ― Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”
I had a conversation with a few coaching colleagues the other day, two of whom specialize in nature coaching, that is, coaching carried out in nature or training and learning conducted in connection with nature.
I’ve been familiar with this branch of coaching for quite a while but had not explored it in depth in any way, but it piqued my interest so I searched around the web to learn more.
Coaching in nature can go by different names – forest coaching, forest bathing, wilderness guiding, nature coaching – and take different forms but the main purpose is typically to help clients reconnect to the natural world and themselves, their own true natures.
In our 24/7, technology-driven world it’s easy to lose touch with the natural world outside, and yet we need this contact to maintain wellbeing. Much research has been emerging in recent years about the benefits of interacting with nature and the outdoors.
“Extensive research has provided empirical evidence that a forest experience or the viewing of forest scenes contributes to reducing stress, promoting more positive moods and feelings and, possible, may facilitate recovery from illness [3–8].” ~ (NCBI Resources, October 21, 2009)
The therapeutic benefits of an experience in a natural setting can offer numerous benefits including improved immunity, decreased blood pressure and heart rate, and decreasing anxiety and stress.
Forest bathing originated in Japan in the 1980s as a physical and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku. The experience was designed as not only a means to reduce stress, but to encourage a stronger connection with nature and the forests. It is now widely considered to be part of both preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Leadership coaching that takes place in nature helps clients reconnect to the natural world and can boost both mood and creativity as well as improve focus.
It’s been shown to help leaders improve their decision-making skills and to increase resilience.
One of the main aims of coaching in nature is to help clients connect body, mind and spirit, to be in touch with all their senses, and to be able to access their inner resources, their intuition and their own inner wisdom. Coaching in connection with nature can enhance a process of self-reflection, and provide increased awareness and insight.
Benefiting from spending time in nature doesn’t have to mean that you have to hire a coach or wilderness guide to get started. For most of us, forests, oceans, lakes and the outdoors are readily accessible in one form or another, even if it means going for a drive outside the city. Most cities and towns also have parks with walking paths, botanical gardens and bike paths. Taking a morning or afternoon to immerse yourself in the outdoors can be a positive boost that your mind and body will thank you for.
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