Healing from the Outside In: Forest Bathing in Belize

by Carolee Chanona

In Belize, being in nature comes naturally, and its healing effects are irresistible. But while we know outdoor therapy is a guaranteed mood booster, what exactly is this feeling that is so hard to put into words? Realists will appreciate its scientific backing, first coined in Japan as forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So, shinrin-yoku literally translates to bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses. This is not exercise – it is simply being in and connecting to nature through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. And with over 60 percent of Belize’s landmass covered in forest, drench yourself in the natural landscape and embark on an eco-therapy excursion with shinrin-yoku.

Unlocking the power of Belize’s Forest

So how exactly does one go about forest bathing in Belize? First, leave digital distractions, like your phone and camera, behind. The key to unlocking the power of Belize’s forest lies in the five senses. Listen to the near-600 species of tropical birds singing, or resident howler monkeys animate the jungle’s echoes. Breathe in the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides – the forest’s natural defense emitted to protect themselves from harmful insects and germs. Feel the earth beneath your feet as you dip your toes into spring waters. Study the fissures of a tree trunk. Drink in the sunlight peering through the forest canopy and taste the crispness of the air as you iiinhale deep.

Harness the healing effects with a Certified Forest Therapy Guide

Dr. Rosita Arvigo, DN
Photo © Quilz Tamay Photography

With the hustle and bustle of daily life, it can sometimes be hard to slow down. That’s why walking with a guide who is a trained forest therapist can help you feel more comfortable while finding the right environment to fit your needs. Dr. Rosita Arvigo – a Certified Forest Therapy Guide – established the first and only Forest Bathing Trail of its kind in Belize, right in San Ignacio, Cayo. Mentored by Don Elijio Panti, one of the last Maya Shamans of Central America (1893 – 1996), Dr. Arvigo reiterates:

“Forest bathing can significantly mitigate the root cause of a multitude of ailments: stress.”

But, simply being in Belize makes it easy to forest-bathe without a guide. It doesn’t matter how fit – or unfit – you are. Whether you await the fog rolling over the Maya Mountains, hike across hanging bridges suspended amidst the canopy near Sleeping Giant, stroll a lowland rainforest trail along the Stann Creek River, or explore a protected forest reserve just outside Belmopan, you’ll have countless opportunities to observe wildlife and activate your senses in Belize. Suitable for everyone, find your favorite spot in Belize to shinrin-yoku and go forest bathing!

Written by Carolee Chanona for the 2020 Belize Gold Book. Information sourced from Dr. Rosita Arvigo, DN. Feature photo courtesy of Quilz Tamay Photography.
Article found on page 64 of the 2020 Belize Gold Book. Read more articles from the #BelizeGoldBook below:

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