Researchers Ylva Lundell and Ann Dolling are running a research project to investigate whether the forest can rehabilitate people suffering from burnout.
Many people are aware that the forest has a calming effect on us humans.
Researchers Ann Dolling and Ylva Lundell at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Umeå would like to see a future where time in the forest is available on prescription.
What is the research programme Forest and Health all about?
“Through a variety of projects, we’re looking at how effective the forest is in rehabilitating people suffering from burnout, something that’s never been done before,” explains Ann Dolling.
So what is happening in the different projects at the moment?
“In one of our studies, we’re comparing one group of people – who get to spend two hours in the forest, twice a week for three months, without being asked to do anything – with another group who are asked to complete a woodworking task under the same conditions. In another study, we’re investigating how people are affected by spending time in the forest as compared with a hectic urban environment. In this case, we’re measuring how factors such as blood pressure and sensory stimulation are affected by the city and the forest,” says Ylva Lundell.
How is your research unique?
“There has been research showing that nature has a calming effect on humans, but in those studies the participants attended therapy sessions at the same time. We’re looking into the effect that forest alone has, which is why we separated the therapy from the time spent in the forest. Our studies will also be able to show what impact different forest environments have on health. Our pilot study shows, for example, that people prefer to choose a location by the water with the forest behind them, or a light rocky outcrop surrounded by forest,” states Ann Dolling.
What do you hope to achieve and when will you be able to present your results?
“Our aim is for doctors to be able to write prescriptions for time in the forest. We can’t say for definite when the studies will be completed. In fact, we’re still looking for more participants for some of the projects,” says Ylva Lundell.
What do you both do when you are stressed?
“I sit by the brook near my summer cottage and just lose myself in the water. Preferably with a cup of coffee,” says Ann Dolling.
“And I head out into the forest with my pad, brushes and watercolours. Painting in the forest is extremely relaxing,” concludes Ylva Lundell.