Measuring the Effects of Forest SPA Programme in Urban Parks Using Active Imagination

Abstract

Nature has been shown to be beneficial to our overall health and well-being. We are all connected to nature and it is important to maintain this vital connection for our health and well-being. Spending time outside in nature or urban parks has been shown to positively affect a person’s emotions and improve their sense of well-being. Access to nature balances circadian rhythms, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and increases absorption of Vitamin D. Increasingly, evidence demonstrates that contactwith the living world around us is an important part of healing and recovery. The natural world’s role in human well-being is an essential, yet often forgotten, aspect of healthcare. Of particular importance are the benefits one can derive through interaction with natural environments. Reincorporating the natural world is practiced to move healthcare toward being more “green”. Spiritual well-being is enhanced through the experience of greater interconnections, and it occurs when interacting with the natural world. One study examined the physiological and psychological responses to real forest landscapes as well as the therapeutic uses of forests relative to urban environments.

Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been reported in adults subsequent to performing the same mental activities in a garden setting vs. an indoor classroom. A separate study involving over 11,000 adults from Denmark showed that living more than 1 km away from green space (forests, parks, beaches, lakes) were 42 percent more likely to report high stress and had the worst scores on evaluations of general health, vitality, mental health and bodily pain The landscape itself offers retreat from daily routine. The aim of our research was to measure the effects of Forest SPA programs on attendants’ well-being. Research has been organized in cooperation between Health college Belgrade and Medical SPA Association of Serbia. There were fourteen participants taking part in the research. Prior to Forest SPA program all participants, 14 students on specialization in Medical Wellness were invited to half-an-hour active imagination (mandala drawing) workshop. Drawing Mandala is a meditation in motion, dreaming with open eyes, and during the process of active imagination the unconscious self is active and not passive like in dreams. Using the data and research methodology from Henderson’s Empirical Study of the Healing Nature of Artistic Expression we designed our investigation. After 90 minutes of Forest SPA program in selected Urban park, participants were invited to draw mandala to describe how they feel at that moment. Several participants (8 of them) attended a 90-minute City SPA program with Tibetan bowls vibration massage. At the end of the SPA program they were invited to draw mandala. Analyzing symbols and colors, number of symbols and their relationship in presented mandalas we can realize the effects of the Forest SPA programs in urban parks on achieving better emotional balance and enhancing individualization process in participants. Our pilot research of Active imagination (by drawing mandalas) revealed that it can be used as a part of Forest SPA program as ART therapy and at the same time as an instrument for individual approach to the client of Forest SPA program as a medical SPA concept.

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