A TEAM of researchers from across Europe are praising the transformative impacts of forests on mental health.

For two years, European health and wellbeing experts, Forest Europe, have been reviewing evidence of 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 and television presenter Kate Humble is encouraging people to visit the nation’s forests during mental health week, which runs until May 19, 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.

TV presenter Kate Humble 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.

“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.”

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.

“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.”

For more information, go to forestryengland.uk/wellbeing