'Forest Therapy' rises in popularity with Texas veterans

Posted at 3:59 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 16:59:53-05

Go anywhere quickly during the busy holiday season, and it can seem like life is a blur.

It’s one reason researchers at Texas A&M Forest Service suggest all Texans, but especially veterans, take a moment to slow down and enjoy the outdoors.

“‘Forest therapy,’ or forest bathing, outdoor therapy, whatever you would like to call it, it’s been a practice in Japan for centuries,” said District Forester Connor Murnane.

Only in recent years, though, did the practice really take off in the U.S.

At first, coastal states like California and Florida embraced the therapy to help veterans suffering from PTSD. Little by little the past few years, Texas has been doing the same.

“We’ve had blood pressure readings with participants before they go on the therapy walk, and then after that. You can see significant reductions in blood pressure just after going on the walk alone,” Murnane said.

He’s quick to point out that any veteran can probably benefit from the practice anywhere, so it doesn’t need to be done in a state park or state forest.

All the therapy requires is a little guidance, no distractions (put away the cell), and mother nature.

“A certified forest therapy guide will really guide you through the walk,” Murnane said. “They want ya’ to be able to slow down, sit down. They want you to notice the insects crawling, or how tall this tree is, or what’s calling out to your nature.”

The forest service currently has a couple of programs using its W.G. Jones State Forest in Conroe.

To date, Munrane estimates about 150 veterans have taken a course and that figure is expected to grow sharply.

“The work the guide is doing here, she’s seen quite a rise in popularity,” Munrane said.

For more info on the different programs and potential benefits to veterans, click here.