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Therapeutic role of a walk in the forest. This sense can have the greatest impact on improving our well-being

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The fact that slow walks in the woods have a positive effect on our physical and mental health has already been scientifically proven. Researchers have wondered, however, which sense might play the biggest role in this process. An international team of scientists conducted an analysis in which, among others, respondents from Poland took part. The results turned out to be surprising.

It is the sounds of nature that contribute most to the well-being that people experience during walks in the forest, according to an international study, which also included participants from Poland. The journal “Forests” published a paper on this topic.

According to the authors of the study, this discovery puts hearing above all other senses, including vision, which until now has been considered the most important in creating a bond between people and the natural environment.

“Forest bath”

Researchers led by Montse Subirana Malaret, PhD, PhD in psychology from the University of Barcelona, ​​in collaboration with researchers from Portugal, Great Britain and Mexico, and therapists from the Forest Therapy Hub, came to these conclusions after conducting a study in a group of 1,142 people from 35 countries (including 40 people from Polish).

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They all took a slow, mindful walk in the woods (referred to as “forest bathing”) with a certified nature therapist. Then, everyone completed anonymous questionnaires prepared by the Forest Therapy Hub – a group of professionals from around the world who conduct “forest bathing” sessions.

The benefits of this type of therapy have been documented in previous studies that have shown that slow walks in the woods, designed by a guide, can improve health and physical and mental well-being. However, research on this method is still being conducted.

Therapy support

The questionnaires completed after the “forest bath” consisted of 29 questions. They were to help assess what emotions and feelings accompany the subjects during the session and what elements of nature are most responsible for the positive impact of nature on well-being and well-being.

It turned out that sounds of nature – such as singing birds, the sound of wind in the branches of trees or the murmur of rivers and streams – contribute most to the well-being that people experience during therapeutic walks in the forest. Next, elements such as landscape, colors, scents of flowers, plants and earth, as well as textures of natural elements were mentioned.

– In order to feel good, we need to find those elements or aspects of nature that can ensure the best well-being and psychophysical condition. Science supports us in this – commented Alex Gesse, director of the Forest Therapy Hub.

According to co-author Kirsten McEwan of the University of Derby in the UK, these results could help therapists – using contact with nature – to better prepare their sessions.

The study also found that women (almost 78 percent of the study group) rated their relationship with nature higher than men. However, when it comes to the most important feelings experienced by the participants of the “forest bathing”, it was primarily happiness, followed by calmness and a sense of being in control of the situation and being important.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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