Special Issue "Outdoor and Nature Therapy"

A special issue of Healthcare (ISSN 2227-9032). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Factors and Global Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 May 2022) | Viewed by 5456

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Jesper Dahlgaard
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Research Centre for Health and Welfare Technology & Department of Clinical Medicine, VIA University College & Aarhus University, 8200 N Aarhus, Denmark
Interests: health psychology; mindfulness for the flourishing of children, adolescents, and adults; mindfulness for the prevention of stress, anxiety, and depression; outdoor and nature therapy; molecular biology, genetics, and epigenetics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Since the emergence of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the 1980s, solid evidence-based interventions have successfully been applied for treating and preventing stress, anxiety and depression, and for promoting mental health. Today, despite the success of CBT and new generations thereof, the number of people experiencing stress, mental fatigue, burnout, anxiety, depression, and social isolation continues to increase, suggesting that some, perhaps societal and system level, imbalances exist that challenge mental health in our societies today and pose a threat to public health.

Critical imbalances have been suggested by Dr. Otto Scharmer that may compromise individuals flourishing and wellbeing and pose threats to our societies. In particular, three imbalances constitute; the ecological divide (i.e., the disconnect between self and nature), the social divide (i.e., the disconnect between self and other), and the spiritual divide (i.e., the split between one’s current self and one’s possibility for growth and flourishing), with profound consequences illustrated by, e.g., increasing rates of burnout, depression, and suicide*.

Recent research supports the projected imbalance of the ecological divide demonstrating a marked reduction in the time spent outdoor and in contact with nature among people in our societies today who find themselves more disconnected from nature than perhaps ever before in the history of humans. At the same time, as noted above, a growing number of people with mental health concerns, and experiences of loneliness and social isolation, support the imbalances constituting the social and spiritual divides.

Since spending time in nature provides a playground for building community and markedly impacts restorative processes for attention, nature contact per se may hold the potential, not only for alleviating the negative consequences of the disconnect between self and nature, but also for facilitating social connectedness and individual growth and flourishing.

Over the last decade, growing scientific interest has emerged in the potential health benefits of combining outdoor and nature contact or therapy with behavioral health interventions for improving physical and mental health. Substantial support for the health-promoting effects of outdoor and nature contact has been demonstrated, but gaps still remain in our understanding of its health promoting effects—alone or when combined with other behavioral health interventions.

The scope of this Special Issue is interdisciplinary with relevance to healthcare, spanning from epidemiologic research including observational studies and clinical trials, over the fields of environmental health, clinical medicine, and psychology, to ecology, landscape architecture, urban studies, and anthropology. The landscape and environments that may be covered may include but are not limited to forest, green space, and the blue ocean, in addition to urban areas and parks. 

Topics may include studies on, e.g., the therapeutic value of outdoor and nature therapy in clinical or non-clinical populations, including information on any unintended adverse effects, which is paramount for furthering the field and for future application of outdoor and nature therapy in medicine and public health. Additional topics may include but are not limited to how outdoor and nature contact or therapy are associated with outcomes relevant to physical, mental, and public health, including but not limited to stress (disorders), anxiety, depression, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and dementia. What are the involved mechanisms of actions, including mediating and moderating factors such as psychological (e.g., stress reduction), physical (e.g., activity), social (e.g., connectedness), neurological (e.g., brain activity and imaging), physiological (e.g., heart-rate variability), immunological and molecular (e.g., biomarkers), and environmental (e.g., landscape quality or type) factors for the health benefits of outdoor and nature contact and therapy in healthcare?

The Special Issue encourages the submission of papers based on both quantitative or qualitative data or with integration of both, in addition to relevant meta-analyses. Finally, emphasis will be on research papers that are relevant and useful for developing the field, or for decision makers, so that the presented research might have the greatest likelihood of being helpful in promoting health and benefiting both people and our societies.

*Suicide is now the leading cause of death for people between ages 15 and 49 and is taking more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined (data published in Newsweek, May 22, 2013, obtained from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which coordinated the Global Burden of Disease report published in a special issue in Lancet, December 2012).

Dr. Jesper Dahlgaard
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Healthcare is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • physical and mental health
  • wellbeing
  • social wellbeing and connectedness
  • flourishing in childhood
  • healthy aging
  • stress
  • mental fatigue
  • restoration
  • mechanisms of action (physical, psychological, social, physiological, immunological, molecular, neurological, and environmental)
  • lifestyle and neurodegenerative diseases
  • prevention and rehabilitation
  • nursing
  • epidemiology of health benefits
  • ethics
  • technology
  • environmental design and access to nature

Published Papers (4 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

Jump to: Other

Article
Increased Wellbeing following Engagement in a Group Nature-Based Programme: The Green Gym Programme Delivered by the Conservation Volunteers
Healthcare 2022, 10(6), 978; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare10060978 - 25 May 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 908
Abstract
The wellbeing benefits of engaging in a nature-based programme, delivered by the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector, were examined in this study. Prior to attending The Conservation Volunteers’ Green Gym™, attendees (n = 892) completed demographics, health characteristics and the Warwick [...] Read more.
The wellbeing benefits of engaging in a nature-based programme, delivered by the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector, were examined in this study. Prior to attending The Conservation Volunteers’ Green Gym™, attendees (n = 892) completed demographics, health characteristics and the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Short-Form Scale. Attendees (n = 253, 28.4%) provided a measure on average 4.5 months later. There were significant increases in wellbeing after engaging in Green Gym, with the greatest increases in those who had the lowest starting levels of wellbeing. Wellbeing increases were sustained on average 8.5 months and 13 months later in those providing a follow up measure (n = 92, n = 40, respectively). Attendees who continued to engage in Green Gym but not provide follow up data (n = 318, 35.7%) tended to be more deprived, female and self-report a health condition. Attendees who did not continue to engage in Green Gym (n = 321, 36.0%) tended to be less deprived and younger. These findings provide evidence of the wellbeing benefits of community nature-based activities and social (‘green’) prescribing initiatives and indicate that Green Gym targets some groups most in need. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Outdoor and Nature Therapy)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Can Residential Greenspace Exposure Improve Pain Experience? A Comparison between Physical Visit and Image Viewing
Healthcare 2021, 9(7), 918; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9070918 - 20 Jul 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1081
Abstract
Reducing the burden of pain via greenspace exposure is a rising research topic. However, insufficient evidence has been found in relation to the environmental effect itself. Residential greenspace, as a convenient but limited natural environment for urban dwellers, has benefits and services yet [...] Read more.
Reducing the burden of pain via greenspace exposure is a rising research topic. However, insufficient evidence has been found in relation to the environmental effect itself. Residential greenspace, as a convenient but limited natural environment for urban dwellers, has benefits and services yet to be discovered. Therefore, the current study recruited 24 young adults to evaluate the effects of physical visit to, or image viewing of, residential greenspace on pain perception and related psychophysiological outcomes, via simulated pain. Pain threshold and tolerance were recorded via the level of pain stimuli, and pain intensity was evaluated using the Visual Analog Scale (VAS). The state scale of the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-S) and two adjective pairs were employed to measure the state anxiety and subjective stress, respectively. Meanwhile, heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), and blood pressure (BP) were measured to investigate physiological responses. Besides, Scenic Beauty Estimation (SBE) was also employed to assess participants’ preference regarding the experimental environments. The results revealed that visiting the greenspace significantly increased the pain threshold and tolerance, while no significant effect was observed for image viewing. On the other hand, no significant difference was observed in pain-related psychophysiological indices between the experimental settings, but significantly negative associations were found between the scores of SBE and subjective stress and state anxiety. In conclusion, the current study brings experimental evidence of improving pain experience via residential greenspace exposure, while the related psychophysiological benefits require further investigation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Outdoor and Nature Therapy)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
A Short Mindfulness Retreat for Students to Reduce Stress and Promote Self-Compassion: Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial Exploring Both an Indoor and a Natural Outdoor Retreat Setting
Healthcare 2021, 9(7), 910; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9070910 - 18 Jul 2021
Viewed by 1514
Abstract
Here, we developed and examined a new way of disseminating mindfulness in nature to people without meditation experience, based on the finding that mindfulness conducted in natural settings may have added benefits. We evaluated a 5-day residential programme aiming to reduce stress and [...] Read more.
Here, we developed and examined a new way of disseminating mindfulness in nature to people without meditation experience, based on the finding that mindfulness conducted in natural settings may have added benefits. We evaluated a 5-day residential programme aiming to reduce stress and improve mental health outcomes. We compared an indoor and an outdoor version of the programme to a control group in a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT). Sixty Danish university students experiencing moderate to high levels of stress were randomised into a residential mindfulness programme indoors (n = 20), in nature (n = 22), or a control group (n = 18). Participants completed the Perceived Stress Scale and the Self-Compassion Scale (primary outcomes) along with additional secondary outcome measures at the start and end of the program and 3 months after. Stress was decreased with small to medium effect sizes post-intervention, although not statistically significant. Self-compassion increased post-intervention, but effect sizes were small and not significant. At follow-up, changes in stress were not significant, however self-compassion increased for both interventions with medium-sized effects. For the intervention groups, medium- to large-sized positive effects on trait mindfulness after a behavioural task were found post-intervention, and small- to medium-sized effects in self-reported mindfulness were seen at follow-up. Connectedness to Nature was the only outcome measure with an incremental effect in nature, exceeding the control with a medium-sized effect at follow-up. All participants in the nature arm completed the intervention, and so did 97% of the participants in all three arms. Overall, the results encourage the conduct of a larger-scale RCT, but only after adjusting some elements of the programme to better fit and take advantage of the potential benefits of the natural environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Outdoor and Nature Therapy)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Other

Jump to: Research

Systematic Review
Can Different Forest Structures Lead to Different Levels of Therapeutic Effects? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Healthcare 2021, 9(11), 1427; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9111427 - 23 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 997
Abstract
In recent decades, forests have expanded from natural resources for conservation and production to health-promoting resources. With the growing body of evidence supporting the therapeutic effects of forests, the number of investigations on the relationship between forest characteristics and therapeutic effects have increased. [...] Read more.
In recent decades, forests have expanded from natural resources for conservation and production to health-promoting resources. With the growing body of evidence supporting the therapeutic effects of forests, the number of investigations on the relationship between forest characteristics and therapeutic effects have increased. However, quantitative synthesis of primary studies has rarely been conducted due to a limited number of health studies including forest description and high heterogeneity of forest variables. In this study, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the relationship between the forest structure and the therapeutic effect. We systematically searched the studies examining the therapeutic effects of forests with different stand density and canopy density and synthesized the results. As a result of subgroup analysis, we found that stand density modifies the therapeutic effects. Emotional and cognitive restoration showed greatest improvement in low-density forests with a stand density of less than 500/ha and the therapeutic effects diminish as the stand density increases. The impact of canopy density was not found due to a lack of studies reporting canopy density. Although some limitations remain, the findings in this study have great significance in providing the basis for establishing management strategies of forests for therapeutic use. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Outdoor and Nature Therapy)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Back to TopTop