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Effects of Shinrin-yoku Retreat on Mental Health: A Pilot Study in Fukushima, JapanShinrin-yoku (forest bathing) is a cost-effective healing practice that has recently attracted the interest of social scientists who have attributed it, in part, to mental health benefits. Japanese university students suffer from high rates of mental health problems, and the number of suicides remain high despite the total number of suicides in Japan decreasing. Effective mental health approaches which increase mental wellbeing and self-compassion, and reduce associated deficits, such as loneliness, are sought after for Japanese students, however healthful treatment has not been identified to date. Accordingly, this pre-post pilot study evaluated the levels of mental wellbeing, self-compassion, and loneliness among 25 Japanese undergraduate students who participated in a three-day shinrin-yoku retreat in Fukushima. Measurements were taken prior, straight after, and two weeks-post intervention. One-way ANOVA with Tukey post hoc analysis revealed that the mean scores of self-compassion, common humanity, and mindfulness increased statistically significantly from pre-retreat to follow-up. The mean scores of mental wellbeing and loneliness did not statistically significantly change. The positive effects on self-compassion indicate that shinrin-yoku retreat should be evaluated within a larger sample and in a shorter time frame to establish optimal shinrin-yoku parameters in this arena.
Mental health of medical workers in Japan during COVID-19: relationships with loneliness, hope and self-compassionThe current pandemic of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has negatively impacted medical workers’ mental health in many countries including Japan. Although research identified poor mental health of medical workers in COVID-19, protective factors for their mental health remain to be appraised. Accordingly, this study aimed to investigate relationships between mental health problems, loneliness, hope and self-compassion among Japanese medical workers, and compare with the general population. Online self-report measures regarding those four constructs were completed by 142 medical workers and 138 individuals in the general population. T-tests and multiple regression analysis were performed. Medical workers had higher levels of mental health problems and loneliness, and lower levels of hope and self-compassion than the general population. Loneliness was the strongest predictor of mental health problems in the medical workers. Findings suggest that Japanese medical workplaces may benefit from targeting workplace loneliness to prevent mental health problems among the medical staff.