This study aimed to clarify the psychological benefits of brief walks through forest areas. In addition, we aimed to examine the associations between psychological responses and trait anxiety levels. Five-hundred-and-eighty-five participants (mean age, 21.7 ± 1.6 years) were instructed to walk predetermined courses through forest (test) and city (control) areas for 15 min. The Profile of Mood State (POMS) questionnaire and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory were used to assess participants' psychological responses and trait anxiety levels, respectively. The results revealed that walking through forest areas decreased the negative moods of "depression-dejection", "tension-anxiety", "anger-hostility", "fatigue", and "confusion" and improved the participants' positive mood of "vigor" compared with walking through city areas. Furthermore, a significant correlation was found between participants' trait anxiety levels and their changes in the subscale of "depression-dejection" of POMS after walking through forest areas. A more effective reduction in the feeling of "depression-dejection" after walking through forest areas was observed for participants with high trait anxiety levels than for those with normal and low trait anxiety levels. This study showed the psychological benefits of walking through forest areas and identified a significant correlation between psychological responses to walking through forests and trait anxiety levels.
Keywords: brief walks; forest therapy; forests; individual difference; profile of mood state; psychological relaxation; shinrin-yoku; trait anxiety.