The originally Finnish Metsämieli-method (literally, Forest Mind) aims to develop one´s “mind skills” using nature and specifically the forest as the backdrop with already built in mechanisms to improve ones health and mood.
Nature has been proven to improve our health through different ways. Lowering blood pressure and stress hormone levels in our blood, and improving our mood are just some of the proven benefits we can enjoy after spending some time in nature. Furthermore, studies show, that being exposed to nature or natural elements can affect our emotions and even behavior.
Metsämieli-method is harnessing these benefits and using the forest as gym for both body and mind. Therefore, the Metsämieli-method includes exercises that help us to relax, rejuvenate, de-stress, re-energize and therefore support our mental and physical wellbeing. These exercises can be done in the forest, in the park or even at the office.
My Forest Mind/Metsämieli approach
I followed the Metsämieli guide training in Finland and am now applying this method to the Belgian environment. My walks differ from the Metsämieli walks in Finland because of the surroundings: in Finland forests are more accessible and more abundant, translating to less people and less noise in the forest.
In Belgium, and specifically, Eastern Flanders, the forests are much fewer and farther between, which is why some transport is almost always necessary and getting into the “mood” is a bit more challenging as one is never alone in the forest and because there is always noise. But there is beautiful nature to be found in Belgium as well, one just needs to know to look for it!
To tackle the challenges posed by the location, I am combining Metsämieli- method, i.e. light exercise (walking) and mind skill exercises, with anecdotes about what we see when we walk, to help people “see the forest from the trees”, and also appreciate the similarities and connections between us and nature. Though the forests might change, and themes of the walks as well as, the focus of my walks is always on finding a moment of calm in our busy lives, hearing ourselves and our thoughts better in the quiet of the forest, and leaving refreshed and re-energized. And creating the readiness and need to come back for more, with or without me.
I want to stress the fact that I am not a therapist, nor have I any qualifications to give perfect strangers guidance on how they should be living their lives.
The bottom line of why I do this is because I want everyone to go to the forest more. I believe that anyone who finds their way to the peaceful arms of the forest will soon see the quality of their lives improved. Forest Mind/Metsämieli method gives me the tools to help you to approach your own mind from a different angle, providing you with some other perspectives, and reminding you to slow down, to stop and to look around you. Therefore, as a Forest Mind/Metsämieli guide, I am a mere “forest buddy” who helps you to stop and smell the roses and who accompanies you, so you don´t have to walk alone.
What does a Forest Mind/Metsämieli walk entail?
As we walk, we take the time to drill in to some details in the surrounding nature through stories about the location and the specific plants, trees and animals that live there (I can´t help myself, I am a Natuurpunt trained nature guide, after all). We do exercises to open our senses and that way, open ourselves to the forest. When we are tuned in, we can hear ourselves better. This is the best time to do some exercises. The exercises stem from a mixture of mindfulness, coaching and positive psychology and make use of the natural elements, the trees, leaves, water, and everything else around us as inspiration. We try to do our Forest Mind work as quietly as possible, to allow us to take in the silence. That´s what these walks are also about: room to listen, to the nature and to yourself. We work alone, in pairs and in group, but all the work you do, is for yourself, nobody else. After all, according to the Forest Mind/Metsämieli philosophy, we are all experts of our individual wellbeing.
Every Forest Mind/Metsämieli walk will be different. Not only because of the weather and the natural elements that can surprise us, but because of the people who participate in the walk.
When & how long?
Generally the walk takes about 1.5-2.5 hours and the distance we cover is anywhere from 2 to 5 km. To enjoy the silence and to make sure we do not run into crowds that can disrupt us, the walks take place early in the morning or later in the afternoon/evening, depending on the season and the day light hours. It is also possible to go for a walk during office hours, if you specifically ask for that.
As the name implies, Forest Mind method is best practiced in the forest. Though it can be taken to other environments as well, due to the challenges posed by the environment I mentioned earlier, I prefer to keep the walks in areas where there is mostly forest cover. I am starting from areas that are familiar to me (Merelbeke, Munte) but I am looking to branch out to other areas as well (Heidebos, Vlaamse Ardennen..). This all takes some time and effort, as I want to get to know the environment and the route well beforehand to be able to tell you something about the nature there as well.
The walks cost 5 euros per person per walk payable on the day self. Same price for children and adults.
The next dates for Forest Mind walks (all requiring a sign up beforehand):
- NATUURPUNT MECHELS RIVIERENGEBIED MUIZEN – MECHELEN: 25/01/2017 (Nederlands)
- GENTBOS, 2km walk (Merelbeke): Sun 29/1/2017: at 9.30-11.30, meet at Poelstraat parking (English, nederlands)
- GENTBOS, 2km walk (Merelbeke): Sun 05/2/2017: at 9.30-11.30, meet at Poelstraat parking (English, nederlands)
- HEILIGE GEESTGOED BOS, 5km walk (Merelbeke/Munte) – Sun 12/02/2017: at 9.30-12.00, meet at the parking of Zoete Zonde cafe (English, nederlands). Note that this is a longer walk!
If you would be interested in organizing a Forest Mind walk for yourself or a group of friends, co-workers or others, get in touch with me and we can plan a walk together!
A Forest Mind walk for parents and children is also in the works so stay tuned!
If you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me.
More information about Metsämieli method (in Finnish) can be found here.