Most of my earliest memories are of being in nature. I was very fortunate to have grown up with the most beautiful castle gardens on my doorstep in the middle of Ireland. This was my playground. The magnificent trees there became my extended family. Both my parents had a very deep connection with nature; this is a precious gift they have given me. Lazy Sunday mornings were spent collecting bluebells and primroses, eating beechnuts off the ground, getting up at dawn to pick field mushrooms for breakfast. We would swim in the local rivers and lakes, not a care in the world. I would wander for hours alone through fields and castle gardens, in my own world, deeply touched by all of natures wonder. I found great solace in nature and always escaped there if life became stressful.
I believe this was my grounding for my Forest Therapy career. I saw how the natural world could support people in times of distress and offer great healing. Research shows that if parents have a strong nature connection, children often grown up appreciating nature. This is vital in terms of nature conservation as we protect what we love. A strong connection to nature is also a protective factor for children, enhancing their resilience in times of stress. This was certainly the case for me. Forest Bathing and Forest Therapy can help to enhance families’ relationship with nature, what a precious gift to give back.
Shirley Gleeson is a Nature and Wellbeing Consultant and the founder of EcoWellness Consulting Limited, formerly known as Nature, Health & Wellbeing Ireland.