Forest Europe, European health and wellbeing experts, have been reviewing evidence on the benefits of spending time in forests.
The experts say that just two or three short visits a week can dramatically improve mental health.
In response, Forestry England & television presenter Kate Humble are encouraging people to visit the nation’s forests during mental health week (13 – 19 May) to enjoy the natural health benefits they provide.
Over half the population lives within six miles of a Forestry England woodland or forest and as part of their centenary in 2019, Forestry England is encouraging people to explore the nation’s forests.
There is strong scientific evidence that visiting a forest can improve your mood, your attention span, and even enhance psychological stress recovery.
Walking among trees can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, while improving mood and lowering anxiety. It also boosts the immune system from breathing in phytoncides, which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects.
Kate Humble, TV Presenter said: “Walking for me is a form of mediation, and the simple act of putting one foot in front of another has extraordinary benefits to my mental wellbeing. It helps me feel relaxed, less anxious and more creative.
“Walks enjoyed in the nation’s forests can be particularly special. I love to follow trails through the trees where with every step you can enjoy the sounds, sights and smells of nature."
Humble continued: "Never knowing what wildlife is going to appear on my pathway makes me excited! There is something so simple about walking but the benefits are huge.”
Liz O’Brien, Forest Research continued: “Woodlands can be restorative environments. If you visit the forest now in spring, your senses can be stimulated by the sight of bluebells, the smell of blossom, the sound of the wind blowing through the trees and the touch of wood.
"These sensory benefits are an important part of a woodland visit and can have a positive effect on your wellbeing.”
The nation’s forests have been encouraging people to visit since 1963 to benefit their health and well-being when Dame Silvia Crowe was appointed as their first landscape architect.
Bridgette Hall, Forestry England’s Head of Recreation said: “We plan our forests to benefit people, as well as wildlife and the supply of sustainable timber. They are so important for our well-being and we know that simply spending time in them can boost our mental health."
Hall continued: “We work with lots of businesses and partners to make it an easy choice for visitors to come.
“Forests are places where you can play, seek adventure or find escape to take care of yourself. For 100 years we have been taking care of your forests, so that they can now take care of you.”
The nation’s forests are so much more than just rural landscapes. With over 1,500 forests across the country, there are limitless ways for you to find your connection and enhance your wellbeing. To find out what your forest can do for you forest, visit the website.
The Forestry Commission is marking its centenary in 2019 by inspiring people to visit its forests and woodlands, to help protect them for generations to come.
The centenary year includes the largest ever survey of forest wildlife, new works by sculptor Rachel Whiteread and poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a show garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and commemorative tree avenues planted to celebrate 100 years of forestry.
This article is based on a press release from Forestry England.