Ina Kalvanienė

Psychology in nature: Forest Bathing as a public policy in Lithuania

Ina Kalvanienė is a Clinical Psychologist who secretly played in the “forbidden” forest near her parent’s yard in a small town of Lithuania. As an FTHub Certified Forest Bathing Guide, she was called by the local health center supported by the National Health Ministry to run a series of forest bathing sessions for different community groups. She also offers each participant a personal Well-being plan she checks periodically between each walk. 

She has seen people break through resistance and learn that connecting with nature is a skill that should be trained. 

“I work in the medicine field and also in education. I have my own center, the Psychological Well-being Center, offering individual counseling, group work, stress relief trainings for adults -« Incredible years »-, for teenagers, and going to schools offering some teamwork. We also have self-trust weekend camps for women. Forest Bathing fits perfectly ».  

Forest Bathing for the community as a public health policy

“Somehow destiny came to me: I live in a quite small town. Our local health center, Public Health Office under Tauragė District Municipality, offers different services and they asked me to implement this project from the Health Ministry of Lithuania with strict requirements. They wondered if forest bathing could be fit for this plan and it was perfect. They wanted it to be practical and science-based, and it all fitted perfectly. I am very happy with the FTHub training ». 

“We have this big project of 10 groups -I already started with 3-, they have two monthly forest bathing sessions, and each participant has also an individual health plan, which I propose according to their needs. They implement it and then we meet again.

“I make a plan with many options and they can choose the ones they like. I also email them to check how they are doing. There are village community groups, office groups, and women groups. Anyone who wants, can join. Some of them are from my patients group, like the ‘incredible years’ group, which they chose to do it  together. 

“I hope we find some more fundings for later. We need this. People are amazed. There are doctors in the group that said ‘we were thinking it was something atypical’, and after the walk they felt so relaxed they said ‘of course nature is the best medicine’. 

Connecting with nature, a skill to be trained

“Some women found it very hard to be in the same place for 30 minutes, and surprisingly or not, after being there they noticed how time went by quickly, they thought they would look at their cell phones but started hearing the sounds of nature instead. 

“One psychologist in my group said it’s a skill she had to develop. She was proud that 5 minutes of 30 she got absolutely connected, relaxed, so she would train herself repeating and practicing. Everyone in the group agreed that they would train this as a skill« . 

“As a Forest Bathing Guide, I feel more energized after the walk, I am not a therapist in the forest, the forest is. I am just guiding. When you are with your patient, you are not the main character but have to be there like ‘working’, but in forest bathing you just see how forest is doing therapy for them and that they find by themselves the way to heal and relax ». 

The « dangerous » amazing forest 

“I found nature again 5 years ago, going with my family to our cabin in the forest. I saw that it was the best playground for our daughter. It was a magical moment when I saw her amazed, jumping by the river, playing hide and seek, and the same emotion came to me. I remembered I felt this in my childhood. This was the year I just fell in love. We started going every weekend and that would be our secret place to run away from everything, be with our children and play freely. 

“As a child, there were two parts of me: I grew up in a building with many flats and a yard with no nature, but my parents had a garden, a yard some kilometers far from town, but their mentality was to go there to work« . 

“If you are going there you should plant and that your neighbours saw your perfectly grown vegetables and your beautiful garden. They wouldn’t relax at all, they were stressed all the time. And they pushed me to work. I should pick up the tomatoes, water the plants, and that stress melted in me. I didn’t want to go because I was just watching them work. Now, my father says that it was relaxing for him ».

“But at the same time, I would go and play with my friends in the forest nearby. We went to Oko forest, where I now guide forest bathing walks. And that was my wild side: an adventure in our secret place to play. Our parents didn’t know because for them the forest was a dangerous place and you shouldn’t go there. Even today they understand me but still they somehow ask like ‘what are you doing 3 hours in the forest?’ »

 

 

Ph: Courtesy Ina Kalvanienė

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