Maria Guadalupe Garibay Chavez

Research, forest bathing and overmedication: the focus on reconnecting with oneself

Guadalupe’s resume is breathtaking. But she spends more time describing the jungles, mountains, sea and fireflies of Manzanillo, on the Mexican Pacific, the place of her childhood and youth to which she returns all the time.

A full research professor at the University of Guadalajara’s Institute of Environment and Human Communities at the University Center for Biological and Agricultural Sciences, María Guadalupe Garibay Chávez is an FTHub Certified Forest Bathing Guide and has participated in the scientific review of the latest report published by FTHub „Standards of Key Strategies to reduce hazards, mitigate risk and monitor safety„.

She also recently presented with Alex Gesse a press conference in Mexico with wide repercussion in the media that aroused particular interest in forest bathing for the general public.

In an unprecedented professional approach, Guadalupe focuses forest bathing on people with overmedication. She believes that the lack of pain management has reached a worrying point, both because of self-medication and unregulated prescribing by doctors. „Forest bathing remind people that it is possible to restore their health and find themselves again”.

She has a degree in Psychology, a Master in Public Health Sciences and a PhD in Health Psychology. She has been a member of psychobiology research groups since 1992 and is currently part of the Interdisciplinary Research Group in Environmental Health and Sustainable Development (UDG-CA-43).

She is a representative of the Academic Body of Environmental Health and Sustainable Development, a member of the National System of Researchers of the National Council of Science and Technology in Mexico and a representative and member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2007.

„My interest is to investigate the mental health effects of forest bathing. Since the 90’s I worked with tours in the mountains, jungles, lagoons of Jalisco, in a rural environmental tourism program, evaluating the benefit it gave to people. Since 2012 we started working on these benefits of contact with nature in different ecosystems.”

The Forest Bathing Guide

„Training was a great opportunity to strengthen me as a psychologist and I discovered a world that has me fascinated. I really liked the structure of the walk -the stages of the practice-: it was not only about being there in nature. The other thing was to find people who share your interests. We are still in contact with my training partners and we are still working on projects”.

I was missing this level of energy, vitality and well-being with this training and with the forest bathing walks. From guiding I like that capacity of surprise of the people, the capacity of awe. How people in a condition of freedom can easily generate these sensory and emotional experiences.

„It surprises me how nature is a way to restore oneself, to feel alive, it is the way in which people are attentive to themselves, because we have lost that capacity to dedicate time to ourselves”.

Older adults and overmedication

„We will shortly be starting a forest bathing program for older adults with my fellow trainees. The elder are in a condition of need, and forest bathing helps them not to feel so alone, to disconnect from worries, illnesses, and this neglect that many suffer from.

„We will also be working with people who are overmedicated, either by prescription or self-medication. Stress, medication and anxiety-depression are leading to a path that has no way out for many. It has to do with managing emotions.”

„The high consumption of medicines is not only on the initiative of individuals but doctors also prescribe for any situation and it seems to me that this is not being regulated. With the pandemic it skyrocketed. Antibiotics, anxiolytics, antidepressants… And many have a series of very serious long-term complications.

„The other drama is pain, pain management. For who likes to live with pain, to experience pain, from the joints or any other? And stress has a lot to do with those inflammatory processes. Of course, forest bathing can improve health, quality of life.

„Going often to nature allows to reduce the use of medications. Because it allows people to experience pleasure, or states that allow them to identify with better conditions for their development.”

Guadalupe’s fireflies

„I recognize myself as a woman product of the indigenous-Spanish cultural mix, linked to the natural-wild world of the original people, and to rural peasant life, with its culinary influences, daily customs, world views and human values.

„The place where I was born and spent my youth was in a wilderness area with the presence of the native people of the port of Manzanillo on the Pacific Coast, in western Mexico. The lowland jungle forest and the marine ecosystem coexist with mountains and volcanoes”.

„I grew up in the countryside, with my parents and grandparents, surrounded by mountains overlooking the ocean, ancestral trees and plants, rocks, wild animals, streams, wild fruits and fireflies.

„I grew up in a context of conditions of conflict and social differences between those who held power, those who fought for better living conditions, and those who remained in a more relaxed condition, which has not changed much today either. Early experiences germinated my way of relating to and valuing nature with meaning, freedom and enjoyment.

„At the age of 17 I moved to the city of Guadalajara, I went out to study, started working, and now perhaps with more strength and awareness, I keep returning constantly to my Tierra.”

  • María Guadalupe has been a cardinal actor in the training of researchers in the field of environmental health in Mexico. She was recognized with the 2008 National Award for Ecological Merit, and her education program was enrolled in the postgraduate training program of the National Program for Quality Postgraduate Studies (PNPC) of the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT).
  • In 2015 he received the Jalisco Award, granted by the Government in the forestry field for the development of activities in the environment and sustainable development.
  • Since 2012 he has been researching the beneficial interaction of contact with nature. He has published 37 articles, 17 book chapters, and teaches at PhD, Master and Bachelor levels in Research Seminar; Environmental Risk; Environmental Risk and Disasters; Risk Reduction; and Epistemology of Applied Science in Environmental Health.

Ph: Courtesy Maria Guadalupe Garibay Chavez

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