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Can the boreal forest be used for rehabilitation and recovery from stress-related exhaustion? A pilot study

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It has been suggested that humans suffering from mental exhaustion recover better in environments that do not demand directed attention. Hence, we hypothesized that forests have restorative effects and examined whether the boreal forest in northern Sweden can be used for rehabilitation from stress-related exhaustion in a pilot study. Six participants suffering from stress-related exhaustion were offered visits twice a week, for 11 weeks, in six different forest settings: pine forest, mixed forest, spruce forest, forest by the lake, the forest with a small stream and rock outcrops. The participants chose one forest setting prior to each visit, and the mental state of each participant was evaluated before and after each visit. Interviews focusing on the experience of the forest were conducted after the 22 visits. Solitude and forest settings with light were identified as positive factors for recovery. Despite the limited amount of data, the results showed that the forest visits had significant positive effects on the participants' mental state. The interviews also indicated that the concept is suitable for use in larger randomized studies and that it is important to provide various forest settings to meet individual preferences of the participants and to offer the possibility of solitude.
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Keywords: Attention; burnout; environment; human health; nature; restoration; well-being

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden 2: Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden

Publication date: 01 June 2011

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