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“Nature's effect on my mind”: patients’ qualitative experiences of a forest-based rehabilitation programme
Umeå University, Arctic Research Centre at Umeå University. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine. (Arcum)
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, S-901 83 Umeå, Sweden.
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2015 (English)In: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, ISSN 1618-8667, E-ISSN 1610-8167, Vol. 14, no 3, 607-614 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate the personal experiences and perceived effects on mind from visits to forest environments in a subset of patients with severe exhaustion disorder (ED), who participated in a randomized controlled trial for evaluation of forest-based rehabilitation.

Participants: A subsample of 19 patients with diagnosed ED, who completed the three-month forest-based rehabilitation programme in the ForRest project, was interviewed. Method: The forest-based rehabilitation consisted of repeated forest visits with the main objective of spending time in rest and solitude in a chosen forest setting. Semi-structured interviews were carried out and analysed using Grounded Theory.

Result: A core category and five subcategories were set up to describe the patients’ experiences and development during the forest-based rehabilitation. As patients mostly reported that they strove to achieve peace of mind during the forest visits, Striving for serenity was chosen to be the core category. At first the patients were frustrated when left alone with their own thoughts in an unfamiliar forest environment. They gradually became familiar with the forest environments and also found their favourite places where they experienced peace of mind. They were then able to rest and begin reflective thinking about their life situation, which led to ambitions to change it.The preferred forest environments were characterised by openness, light and a good view, and were felt to be undemanding, peaceful and stimulating.

Conclusion: Visits to the forest provided favourite places for rest, were experienced as restorative, seemed to improved reflection and may have contributed to starting the coping process for these patients. However, forest visits, as the only treatment option, are not sufficient as rehabilitation from severe and long-term ED. We suggest that forest visits should be integrated with cognitive behavioural therapy to further improve the recovery and enhance coping in daily life for these patients.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2015. Vol. 14, no 3, 607-614 p.
Keyword [en]
burnout, coping, favorite place, mood, well being, nature-assisted therapy
National Category
Environmental Health and Occupational Health
Research subject
Public health
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-107105DOI: 10.1016/j.ufug.2015.06.002OAI: diva2:846882
Available from: 2015-08-18 Created: 2015-08-18 Last updated: 2016-05-25Bibliographically approved

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Sonntag-Öström, ElisabetStenlund, ThereseNordin, MariaAhlgren, ChristinaFjellman-Wiklund, AnnchristineSlunga Järvholm, Lisbeth
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Arctic Research Centre at Umeå UniversityDepartment of Community Medicine and RehabilitationOccupational and Environmental MedicineDepartment of Psychology
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Urban Forestry & Urban Greening
Environmental Health and Occupational Health

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