Marta Ayats is a nurse, Master in Tropical Medicine and trained in Emotional Ecology. Her work in International Cooperation and Action Against Hunger took her to South Sudan, Guinea Conakry and Guatemala. As a Forest Bathing Guide and Forest Therapy Practitioner, she has designed and led nature-based interventions for specific groups population, such as women victims of economic and gender violence and migrants.
Marta’s sensitivity, experience and integrity make her one of the most inspiring professionals on the Forest Therapy Hub staff and one of the most cherished trainers and mentors.
The forest and the window
“Some people start the house from the roof and I started Forest Bathing through the window. I spent hours processing files and balancing spreadsheets in the office and the window kept calling my attention: the river, the trees, the different shades of the mountains, the sky… It was as if something was telling me ‘the solution is here’. I started looking for information on the internet, found articles about the benefits of nature and finally came across Forest Bathing. I decided to train in FTHub methodology to understand all that the landscape I saw through the window could offer me”.
The greatness of nature and its unexpected messages
“I trained as a nurse and worked for a few years in the hospital. Then I did a Master’s degree in Tropical Medicine and worked for the NGO Action Against Hunger in nutritional programs in South Sudan, Guinea Conakry and Guatemala. In those countries I got to know nature in all its greatness: for its beauty and its immensity, but also for its enormous strength. In 2005, for example, I was in Guatemala when Hurricane Stan hit.
“The most valuable lesson from the years I was working as an expatriate was given to me by the people in the countries I worked in, especially those who lived in the most impoverished areas. In the Western world we have lost sight of something essential: we are nature. I remembered it thanks to those people and this is fundamental for me. The connection with nature that is achieved through Forest Bathing necessarily implies the connection with ourselves. With this “I am nature”, that in the West world we tend to forget”.
“I was offered a job in Action Against Hunger in Madrid supporting colleagues working in nutritional programs in different countries and the experience in International Cooperation led me to the public administration, where I am still working.
“One of the things I value most is human relations. That is why I trained in Emotional Ecology, which helps to improve the relationship we have with ourselves, others and the environment. And the Forest Bathing and Forest Therapy trainings with FTHub have allowed me to find the formula to accompany people in their life process.
“I work in the social services of the local administration in Garrotxa (Girona, Spain), a region with a great natural wealth where, as a result of my training as a Forest Bathing Guide and Forest Therapy Practitioner with FTHub, we have incorporated Forest Bathing to the attention we provide to people. In addition, I am a Training Coordinator, trainer and mentor, to share the FTHub method and the Liquid Interactions Model with many more people. The spare time I have, which is not much, I dedicate to Silvae, offering proximity Forest Bathing sessions and Forest Therapy interventions to individuals and organizations”.
Immigrants, women and personal development
“I carry out different interventions. Forest Bathing for the general population as a wellness experience. It is usually a first contact, although the experience goes far beyond one day because the participants take away tools that they can apply to their daily life.
“I also run Forest Therapy interventions for specific groups. We have designed and implemented interventions for different life cycles and specific populations (university teachers with stress, older adults and loneliness, mental health populations, child and adolescent care, intellectual disabilities, among others). Two of the groups are people who have recently experienced a traumatic migration process, and women who suffer economic violence -women whose partner or ex-partner has total control and manipulation over their economic autonomy-.
“Finally, at FTHub we are designing and implementing practices linked to personal development. Many participants verbalize how Forest Bathing also helps them in the aspect of human growth. So, based on accumulated experience, we are designing specific programmes such as Wild White in which nature helps us not only to feel better, but also to be better”.
Pioneer inspiring projects
“Every migratory process has a strong impact on people’s lives. Migration involves losses and these involve mourning. If these mourning processes are complicated, they produce a wide range of psychological and somatic symptoms. It is important that this condition does not worsen and lead to more serious mental health disorders. It is for this reason that we are developing with a psychologist and other social workers Forest Therapy interventions for migrants. Although the experience is recent, we can already see results in the quality of sleep and in minimizing the impact of some of these losses, for example not being able to be with the family during the Christmas holidays.
“On the other hand, with the municipality of Sant Pere de Ribes and its service of attention to women, we have developed interventions with women victims of economic violence. These are women whose economic dependence on their partners has led to abuse, so empowering them is vital. In this case, too, the results have been positive and in 2022 we will continue to intervene with this group. This last project, ‘Ecosystem services for people well-being in Sant Pere de Ribes’ was referred as one of the “inspiring experiences in protected areas” at the EUROPARC Report 2020, which is supported by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Biodiversity Foundation.
“Everyone must find their own path. The landscape that I saw through the window led me to a beautiful path, where nature takes care of us and at the same time invites us to take care of it. A path that I hope to continue enjoying and sharing with those who wish to do so”.