Welland McMaster Family Health Team’s vision is to significantly improve the health of our community. With that as a driving principle, we offer many free health and wellness groups to the residents of Welland, Pelham, and the surrounding areas. Information offerings such as Bone Health Education Series, Understanding Memory Loss Workshop for Caregivers, and Anxiety Webinar are happening this Fall, alongside physical exercise Urban Pole Walking Group and the stress-reducing Forest Therapy Walk.
Forest Therapy is something the Welland McMaster Family Health Team is particularly excited to offer to the community. Registered Social Worker Melissa Bollinger is a Certified Forest Therapy Guide, one of only two in the Niagara Region. What is Forest Therapy, you might ask?
“Forest Therapy comes from Japan, where ‘Shinrin-yoku’ or ‘Forest Bathing’ is prescribed by doctors as part of regular medical treatment”, says Melissa. “This is because it has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.” In addition to significant mental health benefits, Forest Therapy also helps lower blood pressure, improve heart-rate, strengthen the immune system, and improve sleep.
During a typical Forest Therapy session, Melissa guides participants in a slow stroll along a path in Short Hills or other local trails in the Welland and Pelham area, stopping often to focus on the sights, sounds, smells, and textures that can be experienced in the moment. Forest Therapy is a gentle practice of mindful awareness that promotes physical and mental wellness. “It’s really about slowing ourselves down in nature, sinking into Mindfulness – the practice of being present in the moment, quieting your racing thoughts by paying close attention to what your body can sense,” Melissa explains. As participants get a break from the ruminative brain, it allows them to receive maximum benefits of time in nature. The ultimate goal of Forest Therapy is to provide participants with a calming, grounding experience which they can then replicate on their own, any time they are in nature. Participant comments when surveyed included: less tension and stress; overall feeling of well-being; relaxed; increased focus; calm and centered.
Forest Therapy is available monthly from April through November to ages 12 and up, and is safe for most ability levels, though patients who need mobility supports may not be able to navigate the terrain of some of the trails. For those individuals, Welland McMaster Family Health Team also offers a Mindfulness Group, which can teach you how to practice being mindful anywhere.
For more information about our upcoming events, visit our website calendar at www.wellandmcmasterfht.com/eventcalendar.php and be sure to follow us on Facebook @WellandMcMasterFHT.