Nature and Forest Therapy Guides

Scientific Review: The Benefits of Forest Bathing

What can forest bathing do for your mental and physical health? Let’s look at the science to find out.

The Stress-Reducing Power of Forest Therapy

Going for a 40-minute walk in the forest can boost your mood and make you feel healthier and stronger.

Spending time in the forest can help with stress, which can cause all sorts of health problems like headaches, high blood pressure, heart issues, diabetes, skin problems, asthma, and arthritis.

When you're feeling super stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. But when you're in the forest, your body doesn't release as much cortisol, which is a good thing because too much of it can cause all sorts of health problems like anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain, and memory and concentration problems. A study found that after going for a walk in the forest, the stress hormone cortisol went down. People who went for walks inside a lab didn't have the same results, implying that the forest setting was responsible for the reduction in stress hormone.

Forest bathing is a fancy way of saying that hanging out in the forest can make you feel super relaxed. This happens because your body's "rest and digest" system gets turned on, which helps you conserve energy and slow down your heart rate while also increasing activity in your gut and glands.

Scientists have done some interesting studies and found that just looking at forest scenery for 20 minutes can lower the amount of cortisol in your saliva by 13.4 percent compared to being in an urban area. And if you go for a chill forest walk, your cortisol levels can drop by 12.4 percent, your heart rate can decrease by 5.8 percent, your blood pressure can go down by 1.4 percent, and your body's "fight or flight" system(which makes you feel stressed) can decrease by seven percent.

Improve Your Immune System Function

When you're feeling stressed, it can disrupt your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off sickness. But, if you go forest bathing, you can lower the amount of stress hormones in your body and feel happier, which can help your immune system get stronger.

In fact, there was a study done in 2007that found that men who went for two-hour walks in the forest over two days had a 50% increase in natural killer cells, which are super important for fighting off diseases.

Even cooler, some researchers are starting to think that forest bathing might have anti-cancer benefits too! In2008, Dr. Li did a study with 13 female nurses who went on a three-day forest trip and found that it produced anti-cancer proteins that lasted for more thana week after the trip. This is really exciting, and Dr. Li and other scientists are still looking into this potential benefit.

Phytoncides & The Healing Power of Trees

When you're out in nature, it can actually help your immune system get stronger by lowering the amount of stress hormones in your body. This doesn't happen when you're in the city, though -only when you're surrounded by trees and fresh air.

One reason for this might be the natural chemicals that evergreen trees release into the air, called phytoncides. These chemicals have been shown to help our immune system get better at fighting off sickness. Dr. Li, who has done a lot of research on forest bathing, has even measured the amount of phytoncide in the air during his studies and found that the more there is, the better our immune system works.

It's really interesting because doctors have been noticing the benefits of being in the forest for a long time. Back in the 1800s, doctors in Germany and New York set up sanatoriums in pine forests to help people with tuberculosis, and they found that being in the forest air made people feel better. They even thought that maybe the pine trees were releasing something that could help people heal! And now, with the shinrin-yoku studies, we're starting to learn more about what might be going on.

The Effect of Forest Bathing on Creativity

Spending time in nature can actually help us think better and be more creative. For example, in one study, a group of people who went on a wilderness backpacking trip with Outward Bound performed50% better on creative problem-solving tasks afterwards. According to researcher David Strayer, it takes a little while to really start feeling the benefits of being in nature.

But the good news is that you don't have to spend days in the wilderness to see a difference. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs teaches something called Forest Therapy, which can have similar effects in just three hours.

Forest Therapy Makes You Feel Good

We’ve seen numerous studies where time in forests correlated with improved mood, even when compared to walking in urban areas. The psychological effects of walking in nature promote better health than walking in cities.

Nature Improves Mood and Cognition in Depressive Patients.pdf
Specific Populations
Nature and Engaging Diverse Youth.pdf
Children and Nature Deficit Disorder.pdf
Warriors Walking Off the War.pdf
Office Workers More Relaxed When Viewing Flowers.pdf
Going Deeper
Invoking the World Soul.pdf
NEW Research
The New Concept of Forest Medicine by Dr Qing Li
From the Research Archives
The Healing Power of Nature: How Green Space is Improving Health and Well-Being in Cities - October 2019.pdf
Frontiers in Psychology - August 2015.pdf
Benefits of Group Walking in Forests for People with Significant Mental Ill-Health.pdf
Physiological Effects–Shinrin Yoku.pdf
Healing Power of Nature.pdf
Relationship between forest coverage and mortality rates.pdf
Trends in Shinrin Yoku Research.pdf
Physiological Effects–Shinrin Yoku.pdf
Nature Therapy and Preventative Medicine.pdf
Forest Therapy and Personality Effects.pdf
Effects of Forest Recreation in a Japanese town.pdf
Trends in Forest Therapy Research.pdf
Forest Walking and Cardiovascular and Metabolic Effects.pdf
Effects of Forest Therapy: Salivary Cortisol and Cerebral Activity as Indicators.pdf
Psychological Effects of Forest Areas on Healthy Adults.pdf
Wood Essential Oils Boost Immune System.pdf
Forest Coverage and Mortality Rates of Cancers in Japan.pdf
Forest Bathing Trip Increases Immune Response in Female Cancer Patients.pdf
Forest Therapy and Cardiovascular Health in Young Adults.pdf
US Research and Research Synthesis
Window View May Influence Surgery Recovery.pdf
Annotated Bibliography: Children and Nature.pdf
The Restorative Environment: Nature and the Human Experience.pdf
Review of the Physiological Effects of Experiencing Outdoor Nature.pdf
Cultural Perspectives
UK: Group Walks in Nature and Multiple Aspects of Well-Being.pdf
Australia: 'Contact with Nature' as an Upstream Health Promotion Intervention.pdf
Australia: The Benefits of Contact with Nature for Mental Health and Well-Being.pdf
Scandinavian Philosophy of Outdoor Life.pdf
Shinrin-Yoku in Ireland
UK: Psychological Benefits of Greenspace.pdf
UK: Nature Walking for Well-Being.pdf
Denmark: Nature Garden Therapy and Stress-Related Illness
Popular Press and
Major Magazine Articles
National Geographic October 2019: The Secret to Mindful Travel? A Walk in the Woods
CBC News August 2019: Forest Bathing Takes Root in Canada: Meet B.C.'s First Certified Forest Therapist
Sonoma Index-Tribune July 2019: Forest therapy has Many Physiological and Psychological Benefits
WebMD June 2019: Forest Bathing, Nature Time Are Hot Health Advice
Oprah Magazine June 2014: The New Nature Walk.pdf
Atlantic Magazine 2013: How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies.pdf
Mother Earth News January 2013: Your Brain on Nature.pdf
Outside Magazine 2012: Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning.pdf
Architecture, Design, and Economics
The Economics of Biophilia.pdf