• A Qualitative Study Comparing Mindfulness and Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing): Practitioners’ Perspectives

      Clarke, Fiona J.; Kotera, Yasuhiro; McEwan, Kirsten; University of Birmingham; University of Derby (MDPI AG, 2021-06-15)
      The boundary between mindfulness and forest bathing, two conceptually related therapies, is unclear. Accordingly, this study reports the strengths and challenges, similarities and differences, and barriers and facilitators for both. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven trained and experienced practitioners of both mindfulness and forest bathing. Reflexive thematic analysis revealed four main themes: (i) differences between the approaches; (ii) the benefits of forest bathing; (iii) biophilia through forest bathing; and (iv) inward versus outward attentional focus as a distinction between the approaches. Both practices were found to benefit well-being, but practitioners revealed key barriers to mindfulness. For vulnerable groups experiencing mental health challenges or difficulties achieving a meditative state, mindfulness may introduce well-being risks. By offering a gentler, more intuitive approach that encourages outward attentional focus, forest bathing was found to overcome this barrier. Forest bathing is suitable for all groups, but adaptations are recommended for those expressing fear or discomfort in forested environments. The findings inform how to position both approaches in practice, as a first step towards social prescribing recommendations. Wider implications concern forest bathing’s potential to impact environmental well-being. Future research must garner comparative data, involve young people, and explore the feasibility of a forest bathing social prescription.