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Green energy.

Nature therapy practitioner Jo Byers believes that spending time in nature can promote relaxation and reduce stress levels, leading to improved physical and mental health.

Feb 8, 2023

Words: Gippslandia

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Just this week there was a new paleontological announcement: a distant ancestor, Homo naledi, was already out there in the bush utilising fire a cheeky 300,000 years or so ago, whereas the first cities began to appear about 10,000 years ago.

So, for a long period the bush was home and our species spent a great deal of time evolving alongside it. Then, we began to appreciate the efficiency and opportunities of a city, which, over the years, led to our connection to nature becoming fractured.

As Jo Byers, a nature therapy practitioner and founder of Sol Synergy, continues, “Our bodies and brains haven’t fully adjusted and we need to return to nature regularly. It is something that is innate within us.

“Nature therapy is an outdoor, guided healing practice. It is also referred to as forest therapy, forest bathing and shinrin-yoku. This practice focuses on mindfully immersing oneself in nature by using all five senses to experience the environment.”

Jo grew up in East Gippsland, where having the freedom to trek into our wild and diverse natural environments sparked a lifelong love of being in nature. Jo says that similar to many other people that she’s spoken with, she too turns to nature to rest, explore and have fun.

“I worked in community services for about 10 years and have also undertaken further studies in Childhood Developmental Trauma and Family Therapy. During this time, I recognised a lack of options and long wait times for people wanting to engage with services. I also noticed the impact of stress and long hours on frontline workers. I started to explore different ideas to support people to recover, reset and reconnect from adversity, improve their overall well-being and build resilience. This drew me to nature therapy.”

Nature therapy is designed to promote physiological (the body and its systems) relaxation and reductions in stress states by exposing the senses to stimuli found in nature. It helps maintain daily functions like your resting heart rate, metabolism and breathing rate. The benefits of spending time in nature are cumulative; the more time we spend in nature, the better we feel.

Jo offers that as an inclusive practice, some general principles that guide nature therapy are that participants go into nature for rejuvenation, relaxation and recovery.

“Participants can engage in physical exercise, but it’s not the primary purpose of the practice. Cultivating mindfulness is an aspect of nature therapy that is promoted with prompts to slow down and deeply perceive the natural environment.”

Additionally, trees exude essential oils – phytoncides. Jo says, “When we go into the forest we can breathe in these chemicals, which are then absorbed into our bloodstreams. Some research has shown that these phytoncides are an important part of the tree's natural protection and communication networks, and can promote immune system function in humans.”

Jo studied forest therapy with the International Nature and Forest Therapy Alliance to become an internationally accredited Forest Therapy Guide.

“I was fortunate to be able to participate in some free small business training sessions offered by the East Gippsland Shire Council. Through this, I built connections with some amazing women in business who were pivotal in guiding me as I launched into small business in June 2022.

“The first walks I offered were part of the East Gippsland Winter Festival, which was an incredible opportunity and so much fun to be part of. I have transferred my skills, knowledge and experience from my previous roles across a range of areas including hospitality, tourism, community services and teaching to develop a business that is unique in a growing area of interest.”

As every small businessperson can attest, the pathway to success is never linear. Jo says, “I am very grateful to the many wonderful business and personal friends who have been generous in sharing their time and wisdom. I have changed direction, gone around in circles, and been unsure of where

Sol Synergy will end up, but that is part of the journey and excitement of having a small business.”

Currently, Sol Synergy is offering nature therapy for individuals, private and corporate groups. Jo’s sessions with Sol Synergy can now be paid for through the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme), and she is offering weekly walks at the Metung Hot Springs on a Wednesday morning and once a month on a Sunday. Jo encourages anyone interested to reach out to discuss any ideas where they may be able to work together.

Excitingly, Sol Synergy is almost ready to reveal some programs to be offered over the summer, combining nature therapy and paddling East Gippsland’s waterways. So get ready for deeper relaxation and rejuvenation by reconnecting with our bush – and yourself.

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For more information or to book a Sol Synergy session with Jo, head to

Gippslandia - Issue No. 25

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