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Psychological Benefits of Walking or Staying in Forest Areas

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Psychology of Sustainability and Sustainable Development".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 May 2022) | Viewed by 51758

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Forest Management, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, 1 Matsunosato, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8687, Japan
Interests: shinrin-yoku: forest medicine; preventive medicine; medical tourism; stress reduction; forest landscape planning; five sense stimulation; regional promotion; coexisting with COVID-19; coexisting with nature
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

This Special Issue consists of papers that analyze the psychological effects on humans of walking or staying in forests and parks, including stress reduction, improved antidepressant ability, and increased vitality. 

In a COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 society, coexistence with nature and the benefits of nature will take on an even more important role as the stress stemming from the emergence of new infectious diseases and the spread of psychotic depression become a growing social problem. Research on the effects of walking and staying in forests and parks will therefore play an important role in improving mental health and preventing or improving mental illness. In recent years, in fact, the progress of research on the physiological and psychological effects of nature and green spaces has been remarkable, with the effect of forest bathing on psychophysiological stress reduction in particularly having seen a significant amount of research in the last decade. 

However, at present, further accumulation and concentration of research in this field is required worldwide. 

The purpose of this Special Issue is to identify the psychological effects of walking and staying in the forest and how they contribute to the improvement of mental health and the prevention or improvement of mental depression, which will be pivotal to a society coexisting with COVID-19.

Dr. Takahide Kagawa
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. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly 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 2400 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

  • Forest walking or staying
  • Psychological Benefits
  • Coexisting with COVID-19
  • After COVID-19
  • Stress reduction
  • Antidepressant ability
  • Mental health
  • Vitality
  • Coexisting with nature

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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16 pages, 1994 KiB  
Article
A Preferred Road to Mental Restoration in the Chinese Classical Garden
by Jing Xie, Shixian Luo, Katsunori Furuya, Takahide Kagawa and Mian Yang
Sustainability 2022, 14(8), 4422; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14084422 - 8 Apr 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2419
Abstract
The impact that classical gardens have on the well-being and quality of life of visitors, especially city dwellers, is an important topic. Scholars have previously focused on landscape aspects, such as water bodies, plants, rocks, chairs, pavilions, and public squares, in various green [...] Read more.
The impact that classical gardens have on the well-being and quality of life of visitors, especially city dwellers, is an important topic. Scholars have previously focused on landscape aspects, such as water bodies, plants, rocks, chairs, pavilions, and public squares, in various green spaces but have overlooked the road settings that visitors walk on. This study used the Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum as the subject region and employed a convenience sampling method (n = 730) to analyze the preference and mental restoration of different road settings of Chinese classical gardens. According to the findings, the majority of visitors felt that the road settings in these classical gardens provided psychological recovery, and half of the roads received a preference score of five or above. The regression results indicated that nature, culture, space, refuge, and serene were found to be important predictive dimensions for both mental restoration and preference. Furthermore, this study divides landscape elements in road settings into two major categories (natural and artificial elements) and eight subcategories (trees, shrubs, lawns, roads, fences, walls, decorations, and buildings) to investigate the relationship between various types of specific road setting elements and visitors’ perceived preferences as well as restorability. The correlation results showed that in terms of preference, tree > lawn > path > fence > shrub > wall; in terms of restoration, tree > lawn > shrub > fence > path > decoration > building > wall. Overall, the findings of this research can improve visitor preferences and restoration in a given environmental setting, resulting in a more enjoyable experience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Psychological Benefits of Walking or Staying in Forest Areas)
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17 pages, 316 KiB  
Article
A Qualitative Study Comparing Mindfulness and Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing): Practitioners’ Perspectives
by Fiona J. Clarke, Yasuhiro Kotera and Kirsten McEwan
Sustainability 2021, 13(12), 6761; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126761 - 15 Jun 2021
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 10271
Abstract
The boundary between mindfulness and forest bathing, two conceptually related therapies, is unclear. Accordingly, this study reports the strengths and challenges, similarities and differences, and barriers and facilitators for both. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven trained and experienced practitioners of both mindfulness [...] Read more.
The boundary between mindfulness and forest bathing, two conceptually related therapies, is unclear. Accordingly, this study reports the strengths and challenges, similarities and differences, and barriers and facilitators for both. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven trained and experienced practitioners of both mindfulness and forest bathing. Reflexive thematic analysis revealed four main themes: (i) differences between the approaches; (ii) the benefits of forest bathing; (iii) biophilia through forest bathing; and (iv) inward versus outward attentional focus as a distinction between the approaches. Both practices were found to benefit well-being, but practitioners revealed key barriers to mindfulness. For vulnerable groups experiencing mental health challenges or difficulties achieving a meditative state, mindfulness may introduce well-being risks. By offering a gentler, more intuitive approach that encourages outward attentional focus, forest bathing was found to overcome this barrier. Forest bathing is suitable for all groups, but adaptations are recommended for those expressing fear or discomfort in forested environments. The findings inform how to position both approaches in practice, as a first step towards social prescribing recommendations. Wider implications concern forest bathing’s potential to impact environmental well-being. Future research must garner comparative data, involve young people, and explore the feasibility of a forest bathing social prescription. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Psychological Benefits of Walking or Staying in Forest Areas)
10 pages, 954 KiB  
Article
Restore or Get Restored: The Effect of Control on Stress Reduction and Restoration in Virtual Nature Settings
by Gerhard Reese, Elias Kohler and Claudia Menzel
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1995; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041995 - 12 Feb 2021
Cited by 21 | Viewed by 4353
Abstract
Virtual nature experiences can improve physiological and psychological well-being. Although there is ample research on the positive effects of nature, both in virtual and physical settings, we know little about potential moderators of restoration effects in virtual reality settings. According to theories of [...] Read more.
Virtual nature experiences can improve physiological and psychological well-being. Although there is ample research on the positive effects of nature, both in virtual and physical settings, we know little about potential moderators of restoration effects in virtual reality settings. According to theories of needs and control beliefs, it is plausible to assume that control over one’s actions affects how people respond to nature experiences. In this virtual reality (VR) experiment, 64 participants either actively navigated through a VR landscape or they were navigated by the experimenter. We measured their perceived stress, mood, and vitality before and after the VR experience as well as the subjective restoration outcome and the perceived restorativeness of the landscape afterwards. Results revealed that participants’ positive affective states increased after the VR experience, regardless of control. There was a main effect such that participants reported lower stress after the VR experience; however, this was qualified by an interaction showing that this result was only the case in the no control condition. These results unexpectedly suggest that active VR experiences may be more stressful than passive ones, opening pathways for future research on how handling of and navigating in VR can attenuate the effects of virtual nature. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Psychological Benefits of Walking or Staying in Forest Areas)
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19 pages, 29310 KiB  
Article
A Pragmatic Controlled Trial of Forest Bathing Compared with Compassionate Mind Training in the UK: Impacts on Self-Reported Wellbeing and Heart Rate Variability
by Kirsten McEwan, David Giles, Fiona J. Clarke, Yasu Kotera, Gary Evans, Olga Terebenina, Lina Minou, Claire Teeling, Jaskaran Basran, Wendy Wood and Dominic Weil
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1380; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031380 - 28 Jan 2021
Cited by 41 | Viewed by 12964
Abstract
Forest Bathing, where individuals use mindfulness to engage with nature, has been reported to increase heart rate variability and benefit wellbeing. To date, most Forest Bathing studies have been conducted in Asia. Accordingly, this paper reports the first pragmatic controlled trial of Forest [...] Read more.
Forest Bathing, where individuals use mindfulness to engage with nature, has been reported to increase heart rate variability and benefit wellbeing. To date, most Forest Bathing studies have been conducted in Asia. Accordingly, this paper reports the first pragmatic controlled trial of Forest Bathing in the United Kingdom, comparing Forest Bathing with a control comprising an established wellbeing intervention also known to increase heart rate variability called Compassionate Mind Training. Sixty-one university staff and students (50 females, 11 males) were allocated to (i) Forest Bathing, (ii) Compassionate Mind Training or (iii) Forest Bathing combined with Compassionate Mind Training. Wellbeing and heart rate variability were measured at baseline, post-intervention and three-months follow-up. There were improvements in positive emotions, mood disturbance, rumination, nature connection and compassion and 57% of participants showed an increase in heart rate variability. There were no significant differences between conditions, showing that Forest Bathing had equivalence with an established wellbeing intervention. The findings will help healthcare providers and policy makers to understand the effects of Forest Bathing and implement it as a feasible social prescription to improve wellbeing. Future research needs to involve clinical populations and to assess the effects of Forest Bathing in a fully powered randomised controlled trial. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Psychological Benefits of Walking or Staying in Forest Areas)
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Review

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17 pages, 594 KiB  
Review
Effect of Nature Walks on Depression and Anxiety: A Systematic Review
by Yasuhiro Kotera, Melinda Lyons, Katia Correa Vione and Briony Norton
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 4015; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13074015 - 4 Apr 2021
Cited by 46 | Viewed by 19722
Abstract
The benefits of nature for our health have been an increasing research focus in recent years. In the context of a global increase in mental health diagnoses, the potential health benefits of nature have attracted attention. One practical nature treatment is to walk [...] Read more.
The benefits of nature for our health have been an increasing research focus in recent years. In the context of a global increase in mental health diagnoses, the potential health benefits of nature have attracted attention. One practical nature treatment is to walk in nature. However, evidence for this practice on mental health has not been comprehensively appraised to date. This systematic review synthesized the effects of nature walks for depression and anxiety, and evaluated the methodological rigor of studies. Academic databases including ProQuest, PsycINFO, Science Direct, and Google Scholar were utilized to identify eligible articles, which were examined using the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale. Of 385 articles initially retrieved, 12 studies met all the eligibility criteria (nine pre-post within-subject studies, two quasi-experimental studies, and one experimental between-subjects study). These studies demonstrated that nature walks were effective for state anxiety but not generalized anxiety and the effects for depression were inconsistent. Findings indicate that nature walks may be effective for mental health, especially for reducing state anxiety. However, the quality of the included studies varied, and sample sizes were small, suggesting a need for more rigorous and large-scale research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Psychological Benefits of Walking or Staying in Forest Areas)
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