Forest Bathing with teenagers

The fascinating world of Forest Bathing and Forest Therapy for teenagers

Manuela Renzi lives in a small village in the Italian Alps. She is a Naturopath and soon graduated in Ecopsychology. An FTHub-trained Certified Forest Bathing Guide and Certified Forest Therapy Practitioner, also trainer and mentor, she works with the University of Padova on a pioneering project of nature-based interventions with adolescent students whose results amaze her: taking off their masks, recognizing their own value, being themselves and forging unique social bonds.  

She teaches her Phytotherapy classes not in the classroom but in the middle of nature: “If you observe each plant well, you understand what properties it has even if you don’t study it”. Making a three-hour round trip to study while raising three small children was not an obstacle for this woman who does “everything from the heart”. 

Soon, she will offer the Wild Blue Professional Development Program: “I can’t wait to give it away. Water is a super power element and I used all my experience to make the course. That mix went really well”. 

The importance of social bonding in the adolescents project

“I am working with the Faculty of Forestry Sciences of the University of Padova, in a pilot project where we take about 20, 25 students of 14 and 15 years of age to nature, with the support of a group of psychologists. Next year the project will be formally implemented. 

 “With teenagers you have to talk differently, otherwise you don’t get the same results. They said they had seen things in nature that they had never noticed before. I was very moved by the fact that the parents were so happy, that they thanked us for taking their kids to nature. The more I do it, the more I think they need it. And they like it so much that they want to continue doing the interventions. They have become very close.

They spend time together, they trust each other more. They can’t wait to go again and they don’t use their cell phones. Teenagers really need nature and social cohesion“. 

Taking off the “masks”  

“It is true that they have many friends and relationships but they are mostly superficial relationships. Because they wear a mask every time they go out, they are not themselves and they are good at masking. On the other hand, when they create something in a group they do. A little bit without knowing it, they bring out something from the inside, that’s what later unites them: because seeing something deep in another person gives you the feeling of knowing them. It unites them more than the likes on social media. And in the end, on the walks they shared very easily what they had felt: – “What did nature say to you?” -“Oh, well, it told me this…”. 

“One of them told me ‘We don’t realize it, but we are more than we think.’ They noticed their own value through Forest Bathing. I realized that they have a lot of things to let go… they have a lot of emotions inside that they have nowhere to get them out. That’s why they fight or are aggressive.  With the Forest Bathing sessions they learn to communicate with nature. They get that relationship that will last them for life. I know that they will know for the rest of their lives to go to a forest and really explore it”. 

Doing from the heart 

“I live in a tourist village in the Alps, Dimaro, in the Dolomites. I am one who follows her heart. If it tells me I have to do it, I do it. I woke up suddenly. At 33 I took my life. What was my favorite thing to do? Helping people, and nature and animals were always my passion.” 

“I enrolled in the Naturopathy school. It was a three-hour drive away and I had to go at night, or during the weekend, and it was quite an intense 4 year period. In the second year I was doing so well that I was asked to teach. It wasn’t my idea, but I’ve been teaching for most of my life. 

“I teach Phytotherapy classes. I don’t do it in the classroom because I don’t like it. I want my students to see the plants. We go outside and try to understand why they behave a certain way because if you observe them well, you understand what properties they have even if you don’t study them. It’s about connecting with the plants”. 

“Then I studied Ecopsychology, which works on how nature helps people’s well-being, how the environment around us can change our state of mind. I apply a lot of that in Forest Bathing.” 

Love at first sight

“Forest Bathing came to me because in taking people to nature I realized that I didn’t get to convey what I feel with nature. They used it more as an object. The awareness was missing. Forest Bathing is what was needed to fill that hole. And it was love at first sight, from day one. It’s so simple and so profound at the same time. And it came naturally to me. When we were assigned the tasks, I finished them in 15 days. 

“For me to be a trainer at FTHub is a dream come true, to be able to bring people this message was what I was looking for. And with the Forest Bathing and Forest Therapy I like to focus on teenagers. I think I have that way of talking to them that we understand each other. I don’t know if it’s because I have 3 kids but it comes easy to me and they treat me like I’m one of them. 

It’s that our method of guiding FTHub is effective. For a kid of that age it is very important that we are attentive to formulating the words that create a space in which they feel free to explain themselves as they want. That’s why they let go and talk”. 

Living to the fullest 

“I would tell a new Guide to never lose that passion, that relationship with nature. To take the time to go to the forest alone, to explore it with our senses and emotions, to listen to nature. We should never lose that. 

“There are people who say ‘I don’t go to the forest because I don’t have time,’ and I tell them to go because of that. For me, the best things came out the moment I stopped. It’s the only time you open yourself up to what comes, and you don’t notice that when you’re running all the time. I like to take people out into nature so they can feel it, experience it. I have never realized before as I have in these years that life is a minute. Better to live it fully. And live it well”.

 

Ph: Manuela Renzi

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