You must have felt it too.
Your shoulders will drop a few notches after a walk in the woods. his heart stops beating. Your thoughts flow a little more calmly.
It just made it easier to relax. The world seemed a little brighter.
You are not alone in this experience. Some call it forest therapy.
I need it.
Young people struggle with anxiety and depression
Unfortunately, depression is a common phenomenon. So is anxiety. In Norway, about 1 in 10 women experience anxiety or depression during her year. Often these two failures occur at the same time. In 2020, worldwide he had 264 million people suffering from depression.
A new NTNU study shows that the number of young people and adolescents with depression and anxiety in Norway has doubled in the age of smartphones and social media. Currently, 44% of her teenage girls in Norway suffer from stress and difficult thoughts.
Everything is hard and difficult. What can I do to help?
Researcher Simone Grassini wanted to find out how a simple walk in the woods could help with anxiety and depression. He collected all the research that researchers around the world have done in the last decade on this topic.
Then he started sorting.
Forest therapy is not yet fully developed
Grassini selected all studies that included a group in which researchers took walks in the woods and a control group in which they did not. .
Six studies went through the eye of a needle.
Using figures, numbers, and columns, research all tells us the same thing.
A walk in the woods can actually help with anxiety and depression.
“These walks are an effective and easy way to deal with problems that many people struggle with,” says Grassini. He is a neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology at the University of Stavanger. He was a researcher at his NTNU when the research was done.
Then you may be wondering…
Is it the exercise itself that releases our mental knots? Or is it nature with the pine silence and rustling? Does just sitting on a tree stump work as well? Or is it a combination of exercise and nature that does tricks? Are short outings enough or do you need regular trips to the woods?
The short answer is that it’s not easy to say, at least from a scientific point of view.
“No one has systematically analyzed this activity,” says Grassini.
But there are some puzzle pieces.
less activity in the fear center
Laboratory studies have shown that even brief exposure to images and videos of nature alters brain activity associated with relaxation and well-being.
Other studies have also shown that exercise itself has a positive effect on well-being.
“Studies conducted outdoors show that even brief exposure to a forest environment reduces activity in the fear center of the brain,” says Grassini.
However, there is still no scientifically proven method for how forest therapy should be practiced. Is one walk a week enough or do you need to walk four times? Is 30 minutes enough or do you need to walk two hours?
healing power of nature
The healing power of nature has not been analyzed in a scientific way, but it has been well thought of by many philosophers.
Solveig Bøe, Professor of Philosophy at NTNU said:
She points to the fundamental fact that humans are also part of nature.
“If we go back far enough in the history of biological evolution, we are related to everything that lives and has lived. We argue that there must be meaning wherever life exists, and this meaning resonates with us,” says Bøe.
She believes this explains why being in nature feels meaningful. increase.
“Being in a green space surrounded by the chirping of birds, the sound of running water, the smell of plants, we understand that we are part of something bigger. It helps you forget yourself for a while,” says Bøe.
Grassini et al. Processing natural landscapes is associated with lower attention and cognitive load compared to urban landscapes. Journal of Environmental Psychology,roll. 62, 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.01.007
Grassini et al. Watching Nature Videos Promotes Physiological Recovery: Evidence from Alpha Wave Modulation in Electroencephalography, the forefront of psychology, 2022. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.871143
Krapelski and others. “Optimizing the Mental Health Benefits of Exercise: Effects of Exercise Environment on Acute Stress Levels and Health Status”, mental health and prevention,roll. 15, 2019. DOI:10.1016/j.mhp.2019.200173 Abstract.
Simone Grassini. A systematic review and meta-analysis of nature walks as an intervention for anxiety and depression, Journal of Clinical Medicine,roll. November 11, 2022 DOI: 10.3390/jcm11061731
Sudimac et al. How nature nurtures: When he walks in nature for an hour, his amygdala becomes less active. molecular psychiatry,roll. February 27, 2022. DOI: 10.1038/s41380-022-01720-6
Hammoud et al. Smartphone-based ecological instant assessment reveals mental health benefits in birds, scientific report,roll. December 12, 2022. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-20207-6
Read the Norwegian version of this article on forskning.no