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Nature's therapy: How forest bathing boosts well-being


How much time do you spend in front of a screen each day? From computers to smartphones, TVs, and more, most of our time is spent staring at screens instead of getting outside.

Several studies have shown that being outside and experiencing nature is beneficial for many reasons, such as improved mental health, attention, lowered stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, immunity, and more.

Whether you're going through a difficult time or just want to switch things up a quarter of the way through the year, getting out outdoors could be exactly what you need.

Here, we’ll share all the benefits nature offers, introduce forest bathing, and how you can incorporate it into your routine to give it the ultimate “refresh.”

What are the benefits of getting outside?

Global statistics suggest that the average person spends a whopping 6 hours and 58 minutes per day on a screen.1 Yep, read that again. That leaves very little time to get out and take advantage of the great outdoors.

But why does this matter? Emerging research suggests that screen time, even just moderate amounts, can contribute to poor psychological well-being. Young people who spend more than 7 hours per day on a screen are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression.2

Yet, there is a simple solution: get outside. Nature has so much to offer, experience and explore, and the fresh air can do wonders for both your physical and mental health. In fact, one 2019 study supported just that by concluding that spending at least 2 hours a week outside has positive effects on health and well-being.3 That’s just 17 minutes every day. Looking at you, Base.

Don’t live close to a forest or natural park? No problem! Even if you live in an urban area, spending time outdoors is incredibly beneficial and can promote good R&R (rest and recovery). But if you want to get the biggest bang for your nature-boosting-buck, try to find an area with more natural greenery such as trees or grass. A study by Neale et al. (2022) found that a 20 to 30-minute walk in an urban green setting, compared to an urban gray setting, increased mood and heart rate variability.4

Another way to help you get outside is to practice forest bathing. Yes, it’s a thing (and super effective!).


What is forest bathing?

Forest bathing, also called forest therapy, is the Japanese practice of promoting relaxation and calmness while being amongst trees, observing nature, and practicing deep breathing techniques.

Forest bathing doesn't have to be complicated. It can be as simple as going for a walk in any natural environment and consciously connecting with what’s around you.

What are the benefits of forest therapy?

Research shows that forest bathing, or ‘Shinrin-yoku’ as it’s known in Japanese, has many positive physiological effects, including lowering blood pressure, improving immunity, and boosting mental health.5

Cognitive benefits

In a world where we are always go-go-go, spending time in nature is the ultimate yin to our overstimulated yang. It’s basically free therapy.

Spending time at work, either at the office or even working from home, can induce sensory overload and mental fatigue. And studies in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have shown that spending 20 minutes in a park can enhance attention.6 So, how can you apply this to your work day? Take breaks throughout the day and head outside for a brisk walk. You'll come back sharper and better equipped to tackle whatever's next.

In addition to helping you focus better, spending time in nature can also fire up your creativity. Some research shows that forest therapy can increase creative performances by over 25%, highlighting that this calming activity can have an important impact on high-level cognitive functions.7

Mental health

Nature has several facets that can boost your overall well-being. Sunlight, for example, has long been hailed for its restorative effects on mental health. Nature walks in forests and green spaces have also demonstrated positive benefits for both physiological and psychological health. And while exercise also boasts these benefits, exercising outdoors amplifies its effects even more.

Proximity also plays a role, and the effect on mental health is profound. For example, a study in Denmark, involving more than 900,000 people, found that children with the lowest levels of green space access had a 55% increased risk of developing a mental health condition later in life.⁹

Green spaces can help alleviate depression symptoms and improve concentration and focus. A meta-analysis involving 33 studies and 3,554 participants found that forest bathing can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.8

Physical health

Simply being in nature can serve as an incredible motivator to move our bodies more. Whether it's hiking, biking, paddle boarding, or swimming, getting active outdoors can improve our overall fitness level and help with weight maintenance.

What’s more, studies show that forest bathing reduces cortisol levels (a stress hormone),10 blood pressure, and proinflammatory messengers.11 Spending time outdoors is also great for improving your vitamin D levels,12 an important nutrient for your mind and body.


The benefits of forest bathing extend to the immune system as well. The immune system is an important first-line defense against invading pathogens, like bacteria and viruses, but factors like stress can also affect immunity.

A study published in 2007, involving 12 healthy male volunteers aged between 37 and 55, investigated the effect of forest bathing on human immune function. The subjects experienced a three-day/two-night trip to different forest fields, where they took part in walking activities. Blood samples were taken to assess the number of immune cells and proteins and if these changed when they practiced forest bathing.

The results found that the three-day forest bathing trip had a significant effect on immune function. Natural killer cell activity was increased by around 50%, and the expression of natural killer cells and anti-cancer proteins, such as perforin, granzymes, and granulysin in the blood also rose.13 Similar results were found in a 2018 study where the response of natural killer cells was increased following forest bathing activities.14

These studies indicate that forest bathing can bolster immune function. So, if you're looking to strengthen your immune system, grab your shoes and venture into the great outdoors!


How to incorporate forest bathing into your routine

Don’t have access to a forest or some greenery every day of the week? No worries, we’ve got you. If you’re residing in an urban jungle or struggle to find the time to seek out nature, there are still some simple things you can do to take advantage of the benefits of being outdoors.

American neuroscientist, Dr. Andrew Huberman, encourages the practice of viewing natural light first thing in the morning, as one of the top 5 actions to support human health and performance.15

What is natural light?

Natural light is the light from the sun. One way to approach this is to get outside every morning for a short walk, eat your breakfast at the outside table, or even have an online meeting in the garden.

What are the benefits of natural light?

Your circadian rhythm, or internal body clock, is significantly influenced by light. Viewing morning sunlight increases the early-morning cortisol, a natural characteristic of the circadian rhythm, and prepares your body for sleep as the day progresses.16

If it’s not possible to view natural light first thing in the morning, there are some alternative things you can do to regulate your normal sleep/wake cycle, such as:

  • Try to get outside in the late afternoon or evening to communicate to the brain that it is evening and it’s time to transition towards rest and sleep.
  • If you work inside, use bright, overhead lights during the day for optimal hormone release, including cortisol and dopamine to maximize your focus as you work.
  • Position your desk near a window, so that the natural light from the sun signals to your brain to stay alert.
  • If safe, dim the light in your work environment in the late afternoon to follow the sun's natural pattern.
  • Reduce your blue light exposure, like that emitted from screens. If this isn’t possible, consider using blue light-blocking glasses or screen protectors or switching your phone to night shift mode.
  • Turn off bright overhead lights and use lamps or soft lighting in your home in the 1-2 hours before you plan to go to bed.

These steps can help you to control your circadian rhythm and prepare your body for rest, as natural light begins to fade.

Let’s recap

Getting outside in nature and taking advantage of its healing properties can be easier said than done. This is especially true if you live in the city, have limited access to green space, or have restricted time due to a busy schedule.

But you can reap some of the restorative advantages of forest bathing by combining your base activities with the great outdoors. Outdoor therapy can be as simple as riding a bike during your morning commute, taking a walk first thing in the morning, or taking your work meetings outside. To maintain your circadian rhythm, adjust your light exposure throughout the day to mimic your natural sleep/wake cycle.

And finally, remember to take a moment to breathe in the fresh air and acknowledge nature for the multitude of benefits it provides.

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[1] Howarth, J. (2023) Alarming average screen time statistics (2024), Exploding Topics. Available at: (Accessed: 18 February 2024).

[2] Twenge JM, Campbell WK. Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Prev Med Rep. 2018 Oct 18;12:271-283. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.10.003. PMID: 30406005; PMCID: PMC6214874.

[3] White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019).

[4]Neale, C. et al. (2022) ‘The impact of urban walking on psychophysiological wellbeing’, Cities & Health, 6(6), pp. 1053–1066. doi:10.1080/23748834.2022.2123763.

[5] Furuyashiki, A., Tabuchi, K., Norikoshi, K., Kobayashi, T., & Oriyama, S. (2019). A comparative study of the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) on working-age people with and without depressive tendencies. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 24(1), 46.

[5] Li, Q., Morimoto, K., Nakadai, A., Inagaki, H., Katsumata, M., Shimizu, T., Hirata, Y., Hirata, K., Suzuki, H., Miyazaki, Y., Kagawa, T., Koyama, Y., Ohira, T., Takayama, N., Krensky, A. M., & Kawada, T. (2007). Forest bathing enhances human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins. International journal of immunopathology and pharmacology, 20(2 Suppl 2), 3–8.

[6] Taylor, A. F., & Kuo, F. E. (2009). Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walking in the park. Journal of attention disorders, 12(5), 402–409.

[7] Yu, C.-P. (Simon) and Hsieh, H. (2020) ‘Beyond restorative benefits: Evaluating the effect of forest therapy on creativity’, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 51, p. 126670. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2020.126670.

[8] Siah, C.J. et al. (2023) ‘The effects of forest bathing on psychological well‐being: A systematic review and meta‐analysis’, International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 32(4), pp. 1038–1054. doi:10.1111/inm.13131

[9] Engemann, K. et al. (2019) ‘Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(11), pp. 5188–5193. doi:10.1073/pnas.1807504116.

[10] Antonelli, M., Barbieri, G., & Donelli, D. (2019). Effects of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) on levels of cortisol as a stress biomarker: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International journal of biometeorology, 63(8), 1117–1134.

[11] Mao, G.-X. et al. (2012) ‘Therapeutic effect of forest bathing on human hypertension in the elderly’, Journal of Cardiology, 60(6), pp. 495–502. doi:10.1016/j.jjcc.2012.08.003.

[12] Park, B. J., Shin, C. S., Shin, W. S., Chung, C. Y., Lee, S. H., Kim, D. J., Kim, Y. H., & Park, C. E. (2020). Effects of Forest Therapy on Health Promotion among Middle-Aged Women: Focusing on Physiological Indicators. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(12), 4348.

[13] Li Q. (2022). Effects of forest environment (Shinrin-yoku/Forest bathing) on health promotion and disease prevention -the Establishment of "Forest Medicine". Environmental health and preventive medicine, 27, 43.

[14] Tsao, T. M., Tsai, M. J., Hwang, J. S., Cheng, W. F., Wu, C. F., Chou, C. K., & Su, T. C. (2018). Health effects of a forest environment on natural killer cells in humans: an observational pilot study. Oncotarget, 9(23), 16501–16511.

[15] Huberman, A. (2023) Using light for health, Huberman Lab. Available at: (Accessed: 19 February 2024).

[16] Mohd Azmi, N. A. S., Juliana, N., Azmani, S., Mohd Effendy, N., Abu, I. F., Mohd Fahmi Teng, N. I., & Das, S. (2021). Cortisol on Circadian Rhythm and Its Effect on Cardiovascular System. International journal of environmental