Well-being in the urban settings: A Discussion on Forest Bathing (shinrin-yoku) in towns.

Authors: Turner-Wilson, A. and Crossen-White, H.

Conference: Royal Geographical Society -IBG Annual International Conference 2021 Borders, Borderlands and Bordering

Dates: 31 August-3 September 2021


Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku originated in Japan. It is a nature-based approach to wellbeing that involves a leisurely visit to a forest for relaxation (Li, 2016). There is a growing body of research that suggests there are benefits to health from forest bathing such as reduction in blood pressure; reduced stress; improved mood; an increased flow of energy; increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species; and an overall increase in sense of happiness (Crossen-White & Turner-Wilson, Hansen et al, 2017; Oh et al, 2017; Li and Bell, 2018). As such forest bathing can not only be a potentially useful therapeutic option, but it may also have a protective health effect for the general population. Given this it fits in with the UN SDGs 3: good health and well-being as it is very much part of contributing to a healthy lifestyle. However many people live in urban environments and traditionally forest bathing is undertaken in deeper more rural wooded locations. Therefore, the purpose of this small qualitative based pilot study was to explore what factors contribute to a sense of wellbeing for adults who have undertaken guided immersive forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) in an urban-type location in Bournemouth, Dorset, UK. The work was undertaken in partnership with Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, UK who helped manage an area of green space within the Stour Valley. The location is surrounded by houses and close to main roads and an airport. Participants on this study undertook a guided forest bathing session around this site which included a small arboretum. They were then invited to focus groups sessions to discuss their insights relating to their experiences. The findings showed that despite the closeness of the green space to houses and people, a number of participants felt that undertaking forest bathing in this setting was beneficial. Some participants reported that there seemed to be a ‘different air quality amongst the trees’ and that the ‘wind in the trees’ helped remove the noise from the nearby town. Many felt the experience had contributed to their sense of wellbeing, despite the location. The work showed that guided forest bathing sessions, even within an urban-type location, can contribute to a sense of wellbeing and that the boundaries that we perceive as rural or urban can be merged in these types of settings. References Crossen-White H. and Turner-Wilson A. L. 2020. Nature-based health interventions: Better engagement, better mental health. Health & Place (in review).

Hansen, M.M., Jones, R., Tocchini, K. 2017. Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and nature therapy: A-state-of-the-art review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(8) 1-48. Li, Q., and Bell, S. 2018. The great outdoors: forest, wilderness, and public health. In: Van den Bosch and Bird, W., eds. Oxford Textbook of Nature and Public Health, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 147-153.

Oh, B., Lee, K.J., Zaslawski, C., Yeung, A., Rosenthal, D., Larkey, L., and Back, M. 2017. Health and well-being benefits of spending time in forests: systematic review. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 22(1) 1-11. UN SDGs 3: Good Health and Well-being

Source: Manual

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