A deeper dive into forest bathing2021-06-07T14:29:18+02:00

Project Description

A deeper dive into forest bathing

A deeper dive into forest bathing

Could forest bathing soon be available on prescription? Three questions for health expert Jenny Lovebo, who has been looking at its positive effects on wellbeing for all ages.

We chatted to Jenny Lovebo,  a senior lecturer at the department of health and caring sciences at Linnaeus University in Sweden, about her research into forest bathing and its future role in improving health and wellbeing.

Jenny Lovebo, a senior lecturer at the department of health and caring sciences at Linnaeus University in Sweden

Jenny Lovebo, a senior lecturer at the department of health and caring sciences at Linnaeus University in Sweden

What did you want to understand in your research?

To study the importance of urban forests and forest bathing, and their impact on human health and wellbeing. Nursing students at an ‘open surgery’ checked a group of volunteers’ health vitals and used forest bathing as part of their offering. We used a local forest here in Växjö and the volunteers went forest bathing for an hour twice a week, for four weeks. We also gave them a ‘forest diary’ to record their feelings.

We’ve been trying to figure out what it is about forest bathing that makes people feel well. One thing we noticed was that although the participants were in an ‘urban forest’ – with a busy main road nearby – they said the noises were audible but felt far away, as if the forest helped them feel in a bubble. We call this an ‘audible silence’.  Birdsong may also play a role, as well as other sounds of nature.

What are the other positive aspects to forest bathing?

Forests promote wellbeing by making us focus our attention in a different way. Your surroundings stimulate your ‘spontaneous attention’, making your ‘focused attention’ rest – this is the attention you use for work and problem solving – leaving you feel refreshed and refocused after forest bathing.

We’ve also been thinking a lot about whether the benefits of forest bathing could be reproduced, for instance whether you could offer forest bathing through VR glasses for the elderly. But to maximise that experience, I believe you would also have to work with scents, and with sounds, so it’s interesting to consider what aspects can you only achieve by actually being there, in the forest.

What are the next steps for your research?

We started to look at the impact on young adults. Children often go out to play in the forests or woodlands with their parents or at their nursery, however, as you get older, you don’t tend to do that as much. Stress and mental health-related issues are growing within this group and so we thought it would be interesting to understand what they think about forests and what would make them go out and use them more for recreation. 

Next, we need to recruit people with stress-related health issues, to follow a forest bathing programme and measure the results. I’m also hoping for some kind of ‘people’s movement’ where more people start using forests for recreation and for wellbeing – not just as a treatment for health issues, but to help keep themselves calm and well.

What are the other positive aspects to forest bathing?
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