Forest therapy as an innovative public health strategy, especially for mental health during covid-19 pandemic

Author(s): Gisela E Immich

There is a growing body of empirical evidence revealing the value of nature experience for humans as a health promoter. Forest therapy is gaining worldwide scientific interests to evalute the different health effects of nature on humans. Especially during the covid-19 pandemic, people have increasingly visited forests or parks for relaxation or outdoor actvities. "Forest therapy" is derived from the Japanese original "Shinrin-Yoku" which literally means "immersion in the forest atmosphere". „Forest bathing“ describes a health-promoting and preventive usage of forest visits, whereas forest therapy considers a variety of therapeutic interventions in a forest for certain diseases. A large number of studies have prooven the positive effects of forest visits on the psychological and mental well-being: Forest visits lead to a positive emotional regulation by reduction of anxiety, anger, fatigue and sadness as well as an increase of attentiveness and concentration, joy, creativity and meaningfulness. In addition to the mental and emotional improvement, the special forest climate with its higher humidity as well as cool and clean air relieves the respiratory tract system. Also, microbes and BVOCs show an influence on the human immune system by interacting with the human microbiom. Additionally, visits to nature promotes the general physical activity. Forest therapy can qualify as an new innovative public health approach. It is effective on stress reduction by different methods like mindfulness-based nature experiences, climatotherapy, or body-mind methods in a forest setting. Forest therapy programs should be guided by a specially trained forest therapy guide/forest therapist. Depending on the target group, different concepts of health promotion, prevention or therapy can be carried out in the natural environemt in an quiete forest or park. Further qualitative studies are n

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