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Southampton students research forest bathing to reduce stress

 

Southampton students research forest bathing to reduce stressSouthampton students research forest  bathing to reduce stress

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, 25 Southampton High School AP Environmental Science students developed a research project to explore how spending time in nature impacts mental well-being. 

Teacher Jennifer Keller said her students were interested in the topic of mental well-being after experiencing heightened stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of their preliminary research, the students learned that these elevated stress levels were being felt around the globe. They were interested in measuring a correlation to nature because of the strong evidence that those who have a connection to nature also have a strong concern for the environment and exhibit pro-environmental behaviors. 

“Combining mental well-being with a connection to nature allowed the students to research two issues that are very important to them and see if there is something that could be done to improve both,” said Keller.

Specifically, the students investigated forest bathing, a nature-based mindfulness practice developed in Japan that is said to alleviate symptoms of overwork and chronic stress.

The students gathered quantitative and qualitative data about their experiences with forest bathing. For the former, they used surveys to measure mental well-being and connection to nature before and after forest bathing in nearby nature preserves. For the latter, they took photos and journaled about their experiences. 

After analyzing their data, they were able to conclude that mental well-being improved after forest bathing. They shared their results with their peers and members of the school community through presentations, posters and social media.

Some students will continue the project next year through an independent study and plan to write an article for submission to a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

To learn more about the students’ research, visit: www.instagram.com/shs_environmental_science.