A Qualitative Study Comparing Mindfulness and Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing): Practitioners’ Perspectives
1.3. Forest Bathing
2. Materials and Methods
3.1. Major Themes
I think, ultimately, they’re kind of the same thing, it’s just a different way to access it. Even in my own healing journey I think that… we hope to be sitting more comfortably with perhaps what we have dealt with as an obstacle… There are often many different narratives to get into that place [practitioner 6].
3.1.2. Benefits of Forest Bathing
We evolved in nature and so intrinsically everyone is aware of that, but it just feels that we’re at home basically. Because in our deep psyche we feel at home in nature, even if we haven’t spent much time in it, but it can come back really quickly. There is this recognition of ‘this is where I belong’ or ‘this feels comfortable’ or ‘it feels safe’ [practitioner 7].
A lot of people, especially when we do the smelling of the earth, loads of people come up with memories of their childhood or they think about their grandmother, doing different things as a child. So that really evokes lots of emotions [practitioner 5].
3.1.4. Attentional Focus
You start with the senses, but the senses just allow you to slow down and become more aware… and then that will increase going more inwards and noticing what is happening to you. So, at the end, of the day, the change happens because there is a self-awareness… and that self-awareness is the one that then allows you to make different choices [practitioner 5].
You can stay on the external things; you don’t have to come into internal thoughts… The safety of paying attention to the external [practitioner 4].
3.1.5. Minor Themes
How would you see from the heart, how would you smell from the heart, how would you listen from the heart?… It’s about helping people to fall in love with nature, because then once we really have a heart connection, then there is no way we don’t want to spend more time in nature, or there’s no way that we wouldn’t want to protect it and act in ways to conserve it [practitioner 7].
3.1.6. Strengths and Weaknesses
4.2. Attentional Focus
4.5. Limitations and Future Directions
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Theme||N||Brief Description||Example Practitioner Excerpt||Practitioner Number|
|Benefits of forest bathing *||45||Well-being benefits, e.g., the speed through which results are seen||“You just get in that place much faster”||5|
|Biophilia *||34||Humans seek out opportunities to connect with nature||“It [the natural world] has that advantage, nature draws in naturally”||3|
|Attentional focus *||32||Mindfulness focuses on internal state, forest bathing on external environment||“In mindfulness… it’s sort of a cerebral discussion. In forest bathing, a lot of the invitations are using your senses to take you out of your brain”||6|
|Differences *||30||Key differences, e.g., the incremental benefits of forest bathing||“Forest bathing tends to multiply those benefits and also add a lot more different types of benefits, like feeling more connected to nature”||7|
|Developments||29||Areas for future research into both practices||“For both practices, … I would love these to be more accessible and inclusive, reaching more diverse audiences”||4|
|Barriers to engagement||27||Barriers to forest bathing, e.g., lack of positive experiences in nature||“Some people even find it quite, almost scary, to take their shoes off [in the forest]”||1|
|Similarities||25||Shared focus on slowing down, engaging the senses, and deep breathing||“You are slowing down, you are being aware of your senses, and utilizing them. There’s a focus on breathing”||2|
|Intuition||17||Forest bathing comes naturally and with ease||“Feels completely natural to us as humans”||7|
|Benefits of mindfulness||16||Benefits of non-judgemental awareness, e.g., developing gratitude||“I have found it very beneficial for really getting to become more aware of things… get into the present moment and appreciate things a lot more”||2|
|Mindfulness and Forest Bathing|
|Similarities||Presence of mind.|
|Focus on slow, conscious breathing.|
|Requiring a certain level of improvization and flexibility in delivery.|
|Exercises carried out in silence.|
|Engaging the senses.|
|Effective for mental health: mental disturbances, depression, anxiety, and rumination.|
|Mindfulness practice takes place in a structured and controlled “classroom” environment, where a script may be used. In forest bathing, gentle guidance is provided, but there are no highly structured exercises to complete. Individual flexibility is encouraged, bringing out aspects of curiosity and exploration.|
|Mindfulness tends to be a more solitary pursuit compared with forest bathing, which has elements of group sharing.|
|Forest bathing involves introductory talks and explanations around the history of the practice.|
|Frequency of practice and session length: forest bathing sessions are generally recommended to last two hours, once per month, whereas mindfulness practice is carried out in shorter, regular amounts of time, e.g., 20 min per day, every day.|
|Practiced indoors versus outdoors.|
|When setting up for a mindfulness session, the practitioner sets up the environment, whereas in forest bathing the practitioner adapts to the environment.|
|Mindfulness is largely stationery, whereas forest bathing involves slow movement.|
|Practitioners often carry out 1-2-1 work through mindfulness, depending on individual needs, whereas forest bathing sessions tend to be more generalized.|
|Incremental benefits of forest bathing||Forest bathing provides incremental benefits, e.g., richer sensory experience in nature. |
Mindfulness involves awareness of the self, but forest bathing raises awareness of (and potentially compassion towards) others and nature.
The senses are engaged to encourage connection to nature.
|Accessibility||Positive results are accelerated with forest bathing, even after one session. |
With forest bathing, results are felt automatically without much effort, whereas mindfulness can be more difficult to grasp.
Forest bathing has a gentler entry point and is suitable for most individuals.
Looking at aspects of the forest is easier than the mindfulness practice of sitting meditation, where individuals are asked to become aware of thoughts and emotions.
|Strengths||Generally regarded as accessible for a variety of clinical and non-clinical populations. Can be adapted to suit individual and contextual factors, and can be practiced in a variety of locations.||Positively impacts mental well-being, through encouraging gratitude, facilitating personal insight, reconnecting the self with one’s emotions, encouraging relaxation, and increasing social connection to others.|
|Mental well-being benefits through non-judgmental acceptance of thoughts and emotions. Focus on breathing connects the individual to their senses which can produce relaxational effects, such as slowing down.||Promotes compassion towards the environment, and engagement in pro-environmental behaviors.|
|Benefits physical health through the chemical effects of the forest atmosphere, e.g., air quality, cancer fighting cells, and stress reduction. The forest is viewed as a natural healer that can be more effective than traditional medication.|
|Highly accessible to almost anyone and is highly adaptable to suit different personal needs and weather conditions.|
|Presents all the main benefits of mindfulness, but incrementally adds to these, such as through the comparatively greater speed at which the benefits are felt.|
|Suitable for a wide variety of populations.|
|Weaknesses||Perhaps more limited in scope.||Biophobia, for individuals who are not used to spending time in nature, may act as a barrier. Some experiences of insect bites and pain while lying down.|
|Not as sensorily engaging as forest bathing.||Weather may act as a barrier for some.|
|Can be challenging if individuals do not have regular support. Support and check-ins would help with upkeep of practice. Needing access to someone with whom individuals can talk about personal practice and development.||Requires a medium group size to benefit from group sharing elements and to foster social connection. Larger group sizes would require an additional forest bathing guide. Some people feel uncomfortable with group sharing.|
|Can be challenging to detach thoughts or avoid rumination.||To maximize the therapeutic effects, forest bathing must take place in a forested environment as opposed to meditating on a house plant: difference between meditating on nature and immersing in the forest environment.|
|Mindfulness is considered more challenging and less accessible than forest bathing. Meditation does not come naturally to everyone.||Impractical given most individuals cannot access the forest regularly, or do not have local access to a forest.|
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Clarke, F.J.; Kotera, Y.; McEwan, K. A Qualitative Study Comparing Mindfulness and Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing): Practitioners’ Perspectives. Sustainability 2021, 13, 6761. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126761
Clarke FJ, Kotera Y, McEwan K. A Qualitative Study Comparing Mindfulness and Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing): Practitioners’ Perspectives. Sustainability. 2021; 13(12):6761. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126761Chicago/Turabian Style
Clarke, Fiona J., Yasuhiro Kotera, and Kirsten McEwan. 2021. "A Qualitative Study Comparing Mindfulness and Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing): Practitioners’ Perspectives" Sustainability 13, no. 12: 6761. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126761