What Research says about Nature and Forest Therapy

A synthesis of ancient traditions and modern research re-imagined for our times.

The Biophilia Hypothesis In 1973, Erich Fromm, a Social Psychologist, introduced the Biophilia Hypothesis described as an intense love of life and all that is alive. E.O. Wilson, a Harvard entomologist, later identified it as an innately emotional attraction of human beings to other living organisms as an evolutionary adaptation. From the evolutionary perspective we feel most at home in nature because we have lived, survived and evolved there. There is a massive body of work as scientists, authors, poets and artists have investigated the nature-human connection and the reciprocal effects for centuries. Here are just a few suggestions for recent publications.

Recommended Reading: A prize-winning author’s captivating investigation of nature’s restorative benefits: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative (2017), Florence Williams, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, London.  A botanist, decorated professor and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation delivers an intelligent and poetic book about the nature-human connection. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, (2013), Robin Wall Kimmerer, Milkweed Editions   A wake-up call by the man who introduced “nature-deficit disorder.” Last Child in the Woods, (2005) Richard Louv, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill   A call to action for a nature-smart future in the tech-centric age. The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder, (2011), Richard Louv, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill   The Happiness Factor George MacKerron, an economist at the University of Sussex, developed an application called Mappiness in 2010 to identify factors that contribute to happiness. He gathered 20,000 participants and over a million data points. The app randomly pinged volunteers twice a day to record their moods and activities. Their responses were mapped to their exact GPS location and recorded weather, amount of daylight and other environmental characteristics. He found that people reported being significantly happier outdoors in all green or natural habitats than when in urban settings.

Research:   I’ve listed only two here because I know if you’re interested in the scientific basis of Nature and Forest Therapy you know where to find it.   This study analyzed 64 research studies conducted between 2007-2017 investigating the physiological and psychological effects of Shinrin-yoku. Among their conclusions were that valid and reliable physiological and psychometric measurements have shown significant and potentially healing and health promoting effects of nature and forest therapy. Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review, Hansen, M.M., Jones, R.,Tocchini,K., International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, (2017) Aug; 14(8): 851   This is a white paper reporting the results of a national initiative in Australia to address the mental health benefits of nature. Beyond Blue to Green: The benefits of contact with nature for mental health and well-being. Townsend, M. and Weerasuriya, R. (2010). Beyond Blue Limited: Melbourne, Australia.