Background: Current literature supports the comprehensive health benefits of exposure to nature and green environments on human systems. The aim of this state-of-the-art review is to elucidate empirical research conducted on the physiological and psychological effects of Shinrin-Yoku (or Forest Bathing) in transcontinental Japan and China. Furthermore, we aim to encourage healthcare professionals to conduct longitudinal research in Western cultures regarding the clinically therapeutic effects of Shinrin-Yoku and, for healthcare providers/students to consider practicing Shinrin-Yoku to decrease undue stress and potential burnout.
Methods: A thorough review was conducted to identify research published with an initial open date range and then narrowing the collection to include papers published from 2007 to 2017. Electronic databases (PubMed, PubMed Central, CINAHL, PsycINFO and Scopus) and snowball references were used to cull papers that evaluated the use of Shinrin-Yoku for various populations in diverse settings.
Results: From the 127 papers initially culled using the Boolean phrases: "Shinrin-yoku" AND/OR "forest bathing" AND/OR "nature therapy", 64 studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in this summary review and then divided into "physiological," "psychological," "sensory metrics" and "frameworks" sub-groups.
Conclusions: Human health benefits associated with the immersion in nature continue to be currently researched. Longitudinal research, conducted worldwide, is needed to produce new evidence of the relationships associated with Shinrin-Yoku and clinical therapeutic effects. Nature therapy as a health-promotion method and potential universal health model is implicated for the reduction of reported modern-day "stress-state" and "technostress.".
Keywords: Shinrin-Yoku; forest bathing; integrative medicine; nature therapy.