Why We Benefit From Spending Time Outdoors – References with reviews

Chang, Chen et al. People’s desire to be in nature and how they experience it are partially heritable, PLOS Biology, February 3, 2022. (https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3001500)

An academic article that discusses results from a large sample study of twins exploring the question of how much our enjoyment of the outdoors is inherited from our genes versus just being a personality trait. Puts great emphasis on public health benefits of providing access to natural environments for urban populations, particular

Evans, Karen. Why Forest Bathing Is Good for Your Health, Greater Good Magazine, August 20, 2018. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_forest_bathing_is_good_for_your_health)

A brief but excellent summary of a book – Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr Qing Li –  about the history of ‘forest bathing’, and specific guidelines for developing your own practice. The book is probably pretty good but haven’t read it. 

Garlits, Jim. Forest Bathing: The No Nonsense Guide to Shinrin Yoku, published January 22, 2020, ISBN 979-8603048499 (independently published). – A pithy, concise, no-nonsense discussion of what forest bathing is and how to devise your own approach. Just 52 pages, it’s a quick read and will get you started. 

Fitzgerald, Sunny, The secret to mindful travel? A walk in the woods by, National Geographic website, (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/forest-bathing-nature-walk-health)

An example of how the forest bathing movement has taken off, this is a brief review of five globally famous destination spots, from Costa Rica to Hawaii, where you can have a guided forest bathing trip.   

Jones, Lucy, Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild, Published March 26,  2020 Particular Books. 

This in-depth examination of how our minds are affected by the natural environment summarizes much recent research on the topic. An extensive bibliography includes many recent studies that indicate the medical and mental benefits of connecting with Nature.  

Lucy Jones interview: Why our minds need the wild- Lucy Jones – Losing Eden (YouTube video, 5/11/21, 53 min)

Hopman, R.J., LoTemplio, S., Scott, E.E., McKinney, T.L., Strayer, D.L. (2020). Neuroelectric Biomarkers of Attention Change from Prolonged Exposure in a Natural Environment. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 5(1), 1-13.  [Sara LoTemplio is a CSU professor that I met in 2022 at a local environmental meeting. I include her name to show that this is an active area of scientific research, and in case anyone was interested in contacting a local academic researcher. ]

Q Li, M Kobayashi, Y Wakayama, H Inagaki, M Katsumata, Y Hirata, K Hirata, T Shimizu, T Kawada, B J Park, T Ohira, T Kagawa, Y Miyazaki, “Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function”, Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2009 Oct-Dec;22(4):951-9.


An academic paper, likely not of interest to the layperson, but which I include here to show the intensity of the scientific research into this area in Japan. Such basic research can help to establish the credibility of investing in publicly accessible natural environments for their long term health benefits.

Louv, Richard. How to Protect Kids from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Greater Good Magazine, September 15, 2016. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_protect_kids_from_nature_deficit_disorder)

Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review, Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Aug; 14(8): 851 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580555/

This long, academically-oriented article was written to encourage Western researchers to conduct their own research into the benefits of exposure to Nature, which has already been established in the Far East (i.e. Japan, Korea and China). It summarizes 64 published articles in peer-reviewed journals. The express intention of the paper is to help establish the practice of connecting to Nature as part of a wholistic approach to all health therapies, and become part of therapeutic programs that can improve patients in many areas of disease, both physical and mental. Not just a summary of other academic articles, it mentions important points of history that illustrate past wisdom pointing to the benefits of connecting with Nature.   

Simard, Suzanne. Nature’s internet: how trees talk to each other, Ted Talk, June, 2016. 

Dr. Simard is the Canadian forest ecologist who made the breakthrough discovery that trees communicate with each other through their roots; that trees’ roots systems have symbiotic relationships with fungi and other microorganisms; that different tree species intercommunicate; and that ‘mother trees’ nurture younger trees in complex ways. While not directly relevant to how the natural environment benefits humans, it is breakthrough research that proves how trees and other plants communicate and assist each other. Such research could have ramifications for humans might connect with Nature in more subtle ways.

Simard, Suzanne. Net transfer of carbon between ectomycorrhizal tree species in the field, Nature. August 17, 1997. Dr. Simard’s seminal paper that opened up the field of research in plant communication through their root systems. 

Stone, Emma, PhD., The Emerging Science of Awe and Its Benefits, Psychology Today, April 27, 2017. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understanding-awe/201704/the-emerging-science-awe-and-its-benefits)

Williams, Florence. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, And More Creative, W. W. Norton & Co., 2017.

One of the definitive authors on the topic, Ms Williams combines the zeal of an investigative journalist with the compassion of bedside doctor in this compelling book, written to address the modern reader who may lack access to the natural environment. For a concise summary of the book’s themes see Book Summary: The Nature Fix by Florence Williams

World Economic Forum, “Why do we love the great outdoors? New research shows part of the answer is in our genes”, February 9, 2022. (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/02/outdoor-nature-research-genetics/)