Description: I am willing to bet that you have already heard something about the practice of if not the term being used for forest bathing. No, it does not involve getting wet in the woods (unless perhaps it is raining). The term comes out of Japan (shinrin yoku = forest bathing) where the practice of taking a slow walk in the woods and perceptually “soaking up” all that it offers in the way of sights, sounds, smells and textures is thought to be relaxing and rejuvenating … a stress reducer. Consider why it might be that walks in the forest could have significant positive effects on those who take them. Once you have your hypotheses in order read the article linked below and see if you can decide whether the increasing popularity of the forest bathing is due to a solid and growing base of research support or due to the increasing amounts of money being investing in training forest therapy guides and marketing (and whether these two things are or should be separate questions).
Source: The secret to well-being could be a walk in the woods, Gayle MacDonald, The Globe and Mail.
Date: April 22, 2022
So, what were your conclusions? Yes there IS a rather large amount on research data showing positive health impacts that support the Japanese view of forest bathing as preventative medicine, though the control conditions in such studies might need a close look. It IS true that as urban dwellers we are more stressed and anxious that we used to be AND we spend a higher proportion of our time indoors that we used to. Now, does that mean we need more outdoor time or does that mean we need more time away from whatever is driving us when we are indoors? It would be worth look more closely at existing research to see if it sorts this out. That said, While you are doing that or doing whatever else you are doing, maybe take some time, some regular time, and take some walks in the woods. That might make you feel better even if we are still figuring out why!
Questions for Discussion:
- What is forest bathing?
- Forest bathing seems to have a number of benefits. Why might that be (what are the “active ingredients” in forest bathing?
- What sorts of research do we need to do, using what sorts of designs, if we want to sort out what it is about forest bathing that seems to be making people feel and be better?
References (Read Further):
Li, Q. (2010). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 9-17. Link
Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 18-26. Link
Tsunetsugu, Y., Park, B. J., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). Trends in research related to “Shinrin-yoku”(taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) in Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 27-37. Link
Hansen, M. M., Jones, R., & Tocchini, K. (2017). Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and nature therapy: A state-of-the-art review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(8), 851. Link
Wen, Y., Yan, Q., Pan, Y., Gu, X., & Liu, Y. (2019). Medical empirical research on forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku): A systematic review. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 24(1), 1-21. Link
Kim, J. G., & Shin, W. S. (2021). Forest therapy alone or with a guide: is there a difference between self-guided forest therapy and guided forest therapy programs?. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(13), 6957. Link
Lee, I., Choi, H., Bang, K. S., Kim, S., Song, M., & Lee, B. (2017). Effects of forest therapy on depressive symptoms among adults: A systematic review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(3), 321. Link
Song, C., Ikei, H., & Miyazaki, Y. (2017). Sustained effects of a forest therapy program on the blood pressure of office workers. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 27, 246-252. Link