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Journey Through Life With the Wisdom of the Forest

The Influence of Natural Urban Environments on Creative Thinking and Attention Restoration

Yeh, C. W., Hung, S. H., & Chang, C. Y. (2022). The influence of natural environments on creativity. Frontiers in psychiatry13, 895213.

This comprehensive study examines how exposure to different levels of natural elements in urban settings impacts creative thinking and attention restoration. Two theoretical concepts central to environmental psychology, attention restoration theory (ART) and stress reduction theory (SRT), have long suggested that natural environments promote psychological benefits essential for human health. However, less research has focused on their potential for fostering creativity.

The study aims to ascertain whether varying degrees of naturalness in urban environments influence attention recovery and whether these degrees also affect creative performance. In this context, creativity refers to the process of generating novel, valuable ideas and implementing them through problem-solving. It often involves divergent thinking, which relies on proposing numerous possible solutions to a problem and selecting the best one.

Prior research has shown that natural environments or those incorporating natural elements enhance creativity more than urban environments. They promote recovery from attention fatigue, stimulate inspiration, and foster creative thinking. This study further explores this by investigating how different degrees of perceived naturalness impact creative performance.

The study’s findings reveal a direct relationship between perceived naturalness in urban settings and both attention recovery and creativity. The more natural elements present in an environment, the better the attention-restoration benefits. Furthermore, a higher degree of perceived naturalness enhances the ability to generate ideas (flexibility) and express details (elaboration).

However, the research indicates no difference in verbal performance between varying degrees of naturalness, suggesting that visual familiarity with the research sites might limit the ability to create novelty ideas fluently. Moreover, environments with a medium degree of perceived naturalness were found to provide a sense of coherence and scope, fostering flexibility in the creative thinking process.

There are, nonetheless, some limitations to the study, including a potential difficulty in eliciting “novelty” ideas through different levels of naturalness in urban green spaces. Future research could address these by testing various landscape types to determine which landscapes inspire unconventional thinking most effectively. The findings have significant implications for environmental design, particularly for spaces aiming to support psychological recovery and enhance creativity.

How this may relate to Shinrin Yoku?

Shinrin-Yoku, a Japanese concept which translates to “forest bathing”, is a practice that involves immersing oneself in a forest or natural environment to improve physical and mental well-being. It has been gaining significant attention for its reported benefits on psychological health, stress reduction, and overall well-being.

The studies highlighted in the research digest above suggest that perceived naturalness in urban environments could influence both attention restoration and creative performance, potentially providing further scientific support for practices like Shinrin-Yoku.

  1. Attention Restoration and Shinrin-Yoku: The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) mentioned in the study is central to understanding the therapeutic effects of Shinrin-Yoku. According to ART, natural environments offer a respite from the focused attention required by modern urban life, helping individuals recover from attention fatigue. Thus, exposure to nature, as in the practice of Shinrin-Yoku, can support this restoration process.

  2. Creativity Enhancement and Shinrin-Yoku: The studies explored how natural environments can enhance creative performance, pointing out that nature not only enables recovery from mental fatigue but also provides inspiration for creative thinking. This observation correlates with the principles of Shinrin-Yoku, which encourage free exploration, a sense of ‘being away’, and the generation of new ideas.

  3. Perceived Naturalness and Shinrin-Yoku: The researchers found that environments with a high degree of perceived naturalness were associated with higher creative performance and greater attention-restoration benefits. This idea could further justify the therapeutic practice of Shinrin-Yoku, reinforcing the significance of immersing oneself in a natural setting.

  4. Restorative Environment and Shinrin-Yoku: The study discussed the characteristics of restorative environments, which provide escape, recovery, and the potential for mind-wandering. These are all elements embodied in Shinrin-Yoku. The practice involves intentional immersion in nature, giving individuals the chance to escape, wander mentally, and experience recovery.

Although this research was not directly focused on Shinrin-Yoku, the implications of its findings could potentially contribute to the growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of this practice. Further research might focus on the direct impact of Shinrin-Yoku on creativity and attention restoration, providing a more comprehensive understanding of its benefits and the mechanisms underlying its effectiveness.


Venture on a memorable path with our 10-week Shinrin Yoku Guide Training program accredited by Shinrin Yoku Association . This journey merges the accessibility of online learning with an enriching immersion in the serene forests of Japan. 🌳🇯🇵

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