Nature therapy

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Nature therapy, sometimes referred to as ecotherapy, forest therapy, forest bathing, grounding, earthing, Shinrin-Yoku or Sami Lok, is a practice that describes a broad group of techniques or treatments to use nature to improve mental or physical health.

Spending time in nature has various physiological benefits such as relaxation and stress reduction.[1][2]


In the 6th century BCE, Cyrus the Great planted a garden in the middle of a city to increase human health.[3] In the 16th century CE, Paracelsus wrote: "The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician."[4] Scientists in the 1950s looked into why people chose to spend time in nature.[5] The term Shinrin-yoku (森林浴) or forest bathing was coined by the head of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Tomohide Akiyama, in 1982 to encourage more visitors to forests.[3][6][7][8][9]

Health effects[edit]


120 minutes in nature weekly could improve health and well-being.[10] As little as five minutes in a natural setting, improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation.[11] Nature therapy probably has a benefit in reducing stress and improving a person's mood.[12][13]

Forest therapy has been linked to some physiological benefits as indicated by neuroimaging and the Profile of mood states psychological test.[14]

Horticulture therapy has been linked to general well-being by boosting positive mood and escaping from daily life stressors.[13]

Stress and depression[edit]

Interaction with nature can decrease stress and depression.[15][13] [3][16] Forest therapy might help stress management for all age groups.[17]

Social horticulture could help with depression and other mental health problems of PTSD, abuse, lonely elderly people, drug or alcohol addicts, blind people and other people with special needs.[18] Nature therapy could also improve self-management, self-esteem, social relations and skills, socio-political awareness and employability.[19] Nature therapy could reduce aggression and improve relationship skills.[20]

Other possible benefits[edit]

Nature therapy could help with general medical recovery, pain reduction, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, dementia, obesity, and vitamin D deficiency.[21]


A 2012 systematic review study showed inconclusive results related to the methodology used in studies.[22] Spending time in forests demonstrated positive health effects, but not enough to generate clinical practice guidelines or demonstrate causality.[23] Additionally, there are concerns from researchers expressing that time spent in nature as a form of regenerative therapy is highly personal and entirely unpredictable.[5] Nature can be harmed in the process of human interaction.[5]


Grounding, or earthing, is a pseudoscientific practice that involves people grounding themselves using devices by touching the earth or removing shoes.[24][25] People who ground themselves believe that they have been exposed to high levels of electromagnetic radiation.[26] Possible changes in mood could be due to a placebo effect.[27]

Governmental support[edit]

In Finland, researchers recommend five hours a month in nature to reduce depression, alcoholism, and suicide.[4] Forest therapy has state-backing in Japan.[17] South Korea has a nature therapy program for firefighters with post-traumatic stress disorder.[4]


  1. ^ Schantz P. 2022. Can nature really affect our health? A short review of studies. I: Why Cities Need Large Parks – Large Parks in Large Cities, (ed. R. Murray), London: Routledge
  2. ^ Song, Chorong (August 2016). "Physiological Effects of Nature Therapy: A Review of the Research in Japan". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 13 (8): 781. doi:10.3390/ijerph13080781. PMC 4997467. PMID 27527193 – via EBSCO.
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  7. ^ O'Donoghue, J. J. (2 May 2018). "Stressed out? Bathing in the woods is just what the doctor ordered". The Japan Times.
  8. ^ Onken, Lisa Simon (1998). "Behavioral therapy development and psychological science: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it...". Behavior Therapy. 29 (4): 539–543. doi:10.1016/S0005-7894(98)80049-X.
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  11. ^ Sorgen, Carol. "Nature Therapy (Ecotherapy) Medical Benefits". WebMD. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
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  14. ^ Copeland CS. The Forest As Physician: Shinrin Yoku. Healthcare Journal of Baton Rouge. Nov-Dec 2017
  15. ^ Schantz P. 2022. Can nature really affect our health? A short review of studies. I: Why Cities Need Large Parks – Large Parks in Large Cities, (ed. R. Murray), London: Routledge
  16. ^ Tester-Jones, Michelle; White, Mathew P.; Elliott, Lewis R.; Weinstein, Netta; Grellier, James; Economou, Theo; Bratman, Gregory N.; Cleary, Anne; Gascon, Mireia; Korpela, Kalevi M.; Nieuwenhuijsen, Mark (6 November 2020). "Results from an 18 country cross-sectional study examining experiences of nature for people with common mental health disorders". Scientific Reports. 10 (1): 19408. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-75825-9. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 7648621. PMID 33159132.
  17. ^ a b Rajoo, Keeren Sundara (June 2020). "The physiological and psychosocial effects of forest therapy: A systematic review". Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 1 (2): 64–74. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2020.126744. S2CID 219966519.
  18. ^ Chalquist, Craig (June 2009). "A Look at the Ecotherapy Research Evidence". Ecopsychology. 1 (2): 64–74. doi:10.1089/eco.2009.0003.
  19. ^ Pedretti-Burls, Ambra (2007). "Ecotherapy: a therapeutic and educative model" (PDF). Journal of Mediterranean Ecology. 8: 19–25.
  20. ^ Phillips, Lindsey (May 2018). "Using Nature as a Therapeutic Partner". Counseling Today. 60 (11): 26–33.
  21. ^ Summers, James K.; Vivian, Deborah N. (3 August 2018). "Ecotherapy – A Forgotten Ecosystem Service: A Review". Frontiers in Psychology. 9: 1389. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01389. PMC 6085576. PMID 30123175.
  22. ^ Kamioka, Hiroharu; Tsutani, Kiichiro; Mutoh, Yoshiteru; Honda, Takuya; Shiozawa, Nobuyoshi; Okada, Shinpei; Park, Sang-Jun; Kitayuguchi, Jun; Kamada, Masamitsu; Okuizumi, Hiroyasu; Handa, Shuichi (26 July 2012). "A systematic review of randomized controlled trials on curative and health enhancement effects of forest therapy". Psychology Research and Behavior Management. 5: 85–95. doi:10.2147/PRBM.S32402. PMC 3414249. PMID 22888281.
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  24. ^ Mims, Christopher (7 June 2012). "Your Appliances Are Grounded, So Why Not You?". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
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  26. ^ L. Pall, Martin (2016). "Microwave frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression". Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy. 75 (Pt B): 43–51. doi:10.1016/j.jchemneu.2015.08.001. PMID 26300312. S2CID 14407921.
  27. ^ Medaris Miller, Anna. "Grounding: Hype or Healing?". US News. Retrieved 20 November 2020.