We began this journey several years ago when we read, The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative (Florence Williams). The message and the research resonated with us immediately, so we formed an interdisciplinary research team to dig deeper into the findings and study the benefits of the natural environment ourselves. We also travelled to Sedona, Arizona, to experience our first forest therapy walk, as there were no certified guides in Texas at the time.
What we found was a growing body of evidence on the mental and physical benefits of spending time in natural settings (see Research). Our research found similar results, especially around mood and rumination. To support our work, we also trained with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) to become certified forest therapy guides and better understand the more-than-human-world in which we live.
Since then, we have shared this knowledge with our students and created experiences to help them learn nature-based strategies to support their well-being. This includes beginning teachers who need tools for developing resilience in one of the most stressful professions, as well as students interested in environmental studies and child development. We also developed a three-hour course at Trinity University, “The Natural Environment and Well-Being” where students spend 50% of class time outdoors in nature while learning about and conducting their own research.
As educators, we have taught ages Pre-K to adult and can create an experience or program to meet the needs of one individual or a group. If you would like to discuss possibilities, please contact us.
Our mission with Nature Connections and Forest Bathing of San Antonio is to begin sharing what we have learned with the San Antonio community. This can take many forms from forest therapy walks to research talks to outdoor education classes or any combination. To be clear, we are not mental health therapists. As ANFT states, “The forest is the therapist, the guide opens the door.” Both our academic backgrounds and guide training allow us to uniquely open this door to share ways of promoting calm and well-being in an often frantic 21st-century world.
As Forest Therapy Guides, we will provide opportunities to:
- get out of our frantic brains and into a sensory space so our bodies can experience nature around us and the restorative benefits, and
- develop reciprocal connections and relationships with nature in and around our communities.
Additionally, we will
- encourage educators, parents, and other industry leaders as they recognize the benefits of Forest Therapy and benefits of nature for their unique groups, and
- guide educators, parents, and other industry leaders as they incorporate Forest Therapy and benefits of nature into daily practices.
Meet Your Guides
Courtney Lambert-Crim | Ed.D
Summer 2018, while looking at a cedar fence dividing a dense wilderness and a perfectly paved path, I wrote in my journal, “The barrier stood between the structure and rigor of academia and the messiness and fluidity of hands in the mud. As I sought to identify and understand my truth, I found that this barrier, over time, split my desires and my spirit from my reality.” This is the context with which I came to this work now framed by nature.
While working with Environmental Education programs via a variety of local, state, and international initiatives, I became very interested in the role of nature and how humans perceive their connection with (or without) the more than human world. As an assistant professor at Trinity University, I became part of an interdisciplinary team studying the effects of natural environments on graduate and undergraduate students’ well-being. Along with infusing curriculum and developing a new course, I trained to become a certified Forest Therapy guide with ANFT. I increasingly found the interconnections that helped me cross the boundary that frustrated me in the past.
My awareness of Forest Bathing allowed me to weave together my teaching, research, and personal practices. I have been fascinated with sharing the benefits with individuals we work with as well as witnessing the reciprocal connections they form with nature in the process.
Laura Allen | Ph.D
As a child, I spent countless hours outside, in forests, mountains, and rivers. As an adult, I spend most of my time indoors and often tethered to a screen. Body, mind, and soul feel the weight of this disconnection from nature. So I have learned to reconnect with the natural world while living in an urban environment. Nature helps slow down the spiraling thoughts in my head and rejuvenate my energy.
I am a professor at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where I have taught since 1994. My expertise is in child and adolescent development, curriculum, and instruction. I am part of an interdisciplinary research team examining the benefits of spending time in natural settings, as well as potential theories and causal mechanisms. I also co-teach a course with Courtney on “The Natural Environment and Well-Being,” where students spend 50% of class time outside in nature.
I am a certified forest therapy guide trained through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy and Guides and am continually learning what the natural world can teach us.