Olga Terebenina — How Nature Saved My Life
From an early age a sense of freedom was gained from spending time at Grandma’s for Olga, who later moved to the UK as a teenager. She felt a host of constraints that meant overtime she could no longer feel the childish and spontaneous self she once knew.
Taking medication, she quickly learnt she would have to live with conditions that were not currently curable by taking medication so far out of the norm it was illegal in some countries. Nature changed this, specifically a connection developed to it despite the prevailing appearance of the city in the surroundings.
The Forest Bathing Institute is one of the world’s leading evidence-based organisations in connecting people with nature. Olga and her life partner Gary founded TFBI. They run government-funded events with the NHS, the government, and a multitude of charities, and are currently in contact with over 50 universities worldwide.
Read more about Olga’s story below and find out what motivates this passion for nature, and in many ways nature’s unmistakable connection to Olga.
I finally started to realise the profound effect nature had on me and its true potential in healing not only me but healing others.Olga Terebenina
Since an early age, I had associated nature with the time I spent at my babushka’s (grandma’s) house during the Russian summer. The feeling I remember is freedom, allowing myself to be who I am without any constraints.
Even to this day, when I think of the happiest time in my life, I mentally come back to me strolling around the forest or running in the fields as a kid, simply allowing myself to be who I truly am.
Sadly, not all stages of my life were filled with this euphoric, unrestricted, and unconstrained feeling of being who I truly was. Having moved to the UK when I was a teenager, I often felt constrained – in the ways I spoke, in the ways I had to act, by the way I was spoken to and by people around me.
Even though this free kid was inside me, unapologetically happy and bold, if I were to fit in and strive in this new environment, I had to adapt and play by the rules.
Years went by, and things seemed easier. I was good at learning the rules and customs of a new country and saw myself fitting easily into any new environment where I had to succeed. I was living the life of my dreams, really having it all.
Only the more I had everything, the more I felt empty inside… I stopped feeling that free, happy, powerful child inside me. Overtime, she grew weaker until I nearly forgot about her.
These feelings continued until one day when I went outside my flat, my heart suddenly started beating so fast, and I began sweating and feeling drowsy. I thought I would faint!
Later I had found out that I had my first panic attack. The situation got so bad that some days I could not leave the house due to anxiety about panic attacks, which led me to a depression over-time.
I started taking medication and just hoped that, like with any condition, the condition would improve with the proper medication and therapy. However, my situation did not improve, but quickly got worse.
I started having somatic symptoms which were so unusual that specialists from three countries that I visited on my healing journey could not tell me what to do.
I remember the despair I had when, being just 19 years old, I learnt that I would have to live with these incurable conditions. I would also need to take medications so strong that some were illegal in many countries due to their harmful addictive side effects.
The prospect of such a lifestyle year after year was unbearable. I just knew I could not live another day like I live now. I realised that I had to find a solution, whatever it took. I must succeed.
It was back in 2013 that I met my husband, Gary. At the time, Gary was researching nature and its potential benefits for health and well-being and, as a result, started introducing me to nature to help my health and well-being.
My journey to reconnecting with nature was not always smooth. I loved the city vibe and only saw nature in the background. Nature was something I used recreationally from time to time to feel better.
I already felt benefits from spending time in nature; it felt like I was giving myself time to re-boot and de-stress, and my sleep and overall stress levels improved. However, at that point, I still was not convinced that it was in natural habitats that I felt more myself and at my happiest.
A few years later, when Gary and I went on our honeymoon to the magical Rennes-le-Chateau area in France, I finally started to realise the profound effect nature had on me and its true potential in healing not only me but healing others.
I never thought that the connectivity to nature, a euphoric feeling of being one with nature, part of something bigger and supported by something wiser and grander, could be so grounding and tangible.
A connection to nature is an automatic and intuitive process—easy to achieve for the average person; no extra training or preparation is required.
We simply need to allow the process to happen, to allow nature to connect with us by feeling that it is part of us, in the same way that we are a part of it, naturally connected and one, rather than resisting with ideas of separation.
Out of this profound revelation—in this magical forest in France—was born The Forest Bathing Institute, one of the world’s leading evidence-based organisations in connecting people with nature.
We also educate people of all ages on the benefits of nature and nature preservation. We run government-funded events with the NHS, the government, and a multitude of charities.
Gary and I are now both peer-reviewed authors on the health benefits of nature. We are in contact with over 50 universities worldwide and currently have numerous studies at various stages of development in the pipeline.
Our work, life, and research are dedicated to scientifically measuring how nature can help heal our mind and body, not just on psychometric scales, but also in physiological measurements. Most importantly, we help people find a way back to themselves through one of the most potent tools—nature.
Writing this article now in 2022, surrounded by lush nature, feeling supported and cared for, as well as bearing a burning passion to help support others like nature once supported me, I can’t imagine my life without nature.
Once you feel the connection with nature, there is, indeed, no way of going back. It is like finally finding your best friend, your partner, your lover, your confidant, and your lost family.
Once you find them, you love them fully and can’t imagine your life without them. That’s why I know, no matter what the circumstances, I will always take care of nature in the same way it takes care of me. Not out of obligation or duty but simply out of the purity of unconditional love, connection, and the profound bond I feel.
To this day, I start my day with the hope of helping at least one more person connect with nature. And even if one person’s life improves for the better, I am a happy person. Nature did not only teach me how to connect with it, but it also showed me how to connect with other people and to feel that—even after all the differences—we are still one, and by helping even one, you help every-one.
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