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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Bethune

The Healing Power of Nature with Dr Qing Li

We might intuitively feel that nature has a positive effect on our mood, but did you know that simply being outside in the natural world can cure some chronic diseases and significantly improve mental health disorders?  

We talked to Dr Qing Li about his personal research and the scientific evidence that shows the extent of the impact that nature can have on our health and, conversely, the negative effect that urbanisation is having on the global population.

His best-selling book Into the Forest: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness was the inspiration for our new chapter, The Nature Fix, in the 2nd edition of Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom.  


Why are humans hard-wired to feel better in nature?

The positive impacts of nature on emotional and physical health are well documented but our affinity with the natural world goes much deeper than we might realise.

In this clip, Dr Li explains the concept of biophilia, a deeply engrained love of nature which is quite literally imprinted on our DNA.

Why is it more important for us to connect with nature than ever before?

It is predicated that by 2050 75% of the world’s population will live in a city. Why does this matter?

Dr Li explains the direct link between urbanisation and chronic disease and why reconnecting with nature is imperative to our mental and physical health.


What is ‘Forest Bathing’?

Developed in the 1980s in Japan, shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’, is now a technique used to combat chronic stress around the world. But what is it and why was it developed?

What scientific evidence do we have to back up the effects of shinrin-yoku?

Dr Li has conducted 20 years’ worth of scientific research into the effects of shinrin-yoku. As a medical doctor and immunologist, he has applied his medical background into evidencing the mental and physical impact of nature.

He unpacks some of that research for us and explores just some of the benefits – from improving anti-cancer proteins in immune cells to helping prevent Covid 19.

What advice can you give to teachers to help children benefit from the effects of nature?

As teachers, we instinctively know the positive effect that being out in nature has on our pupils. We can all relate to the break down in behaviour that comes with wet-play days!  

But did you know that children who spend too much time indoors can suffer from what Dr Li calls, ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’?

Dr Li discusses what this means as well as unpacking the scientifically proven benefits of children spending more time outdoors, including planting the seed for children to become guardians of nature for the future.




Dr Qing Li is the world’s foremost expert in forest medicine. A medical doctor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School, he has been a visiting fellow at the Stanford School of Medicine and is a founding member and chairman of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine. He is also a leading member of the Task Force of Forests and Human Health, and the vice president and secretary general of the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine.


If you enjoyed this then check out our vlog with Bruce Daisley...

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