Natural spaces for mental health

Walking through the forest.

Forests have been our home since time immemorial. However, they are much more than majestic landscapes; their influence extends to our natural defenses, interacting with our immune system in an astonishing and beneficial way.

Trees release volatile organic compounds, such as terpenes and isoprenes, which not only fill the air with natural fragrances but also have a direct impact on human health. Various studies have revealed that exposure to these volatile substances from trees, especially in forest environments, can strengthen the human immune system. In fact, it has been shown that they increase the activity of “natural killer” cells, responsible for detecting and destroying infected or cancerous cells.

Furthermore, these volatile compounds have also been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the human body. Additionally, various studies have demonstrated that spending time in forest environments can reduce stress and anxiety levels, as well as improve mood.

Based on these studies, doctors and health professionals in Japan have begun to actively recommend forest walks as part of a healthy lifestyle. This practice is known as “shinrin-yoku” or forest bathing and has been integrated into wellness programs and complementary therapies to improve the physical and mental health of individuals.

Japanese practice of "shinrin-yoku"
Japanese practice of “shinrin-yoku”

Thus, contact with forest environments or the presence of trees near urban areas could have positive implications for human health, potentially being an effective strategy to improve health and strengthen our natural defenses against diseases.