Spend more time in nature; It’s good for your health.
By Dr. Jen
Have you ever heard of shinrin-yoku, aka forest bathing? Forest bathing originated in Japan and is considered a form of therapy by many. There have been numerous studies over the past 30 years that link the practice of forest bathing with dramatic reductions in blood pressure, improved mood, and a stronger immune system. The best part is that really any fitness level can do it. All you have to do it get yourself to the woods.
The key concepts behind forest bathing seem quite simple. Literally you just need to spend time in nature. The trick is to be totally present. Turn off your phone and take a break from the distractions of the outside world. Focus on your senses. Listen to the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, watch how the wind moves through the leaves, breathe in the aromatic compounds from all of the life around you. Run your hands through the earth or dip your toes in a stream. Just relax and stay in the moment. You have nothing to do other than what you are doing and nowhere to be other than where you are.
The aromas you breathe in from the trees have compounds called phytoncides. Studies have shown that inhaling these compounds increases the number of your natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that supports the immune system and has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer. These cells also play an important part in fighting infections and reducing inflammation. One study showed that the more time you spend in nature matters. Participants that took a long walk through the forest two days in a row immediately had a 50% increase in natural killer cells and the activity levels of those cells remained on average 23% than usual for the next 30 days.
There have been multiple studies showing shinrin-yoku reduces tension, anger and depression. It also is linked to a dramatic reduction in blood pressure, so much so that 10% of the seniors in one study were able to get off of their blood pressure medications after just a few weeks of spending 30 minutes a week in the woods.
Want to jog or hike? Go for it! Just make sure you take a few minutes to really connect to your surroundings through all of your senses first. Then try to stay in that meditative mindset during your activity. For more information, check out Forest Bathing; How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, by Dr. Qing Li. To your well-being!
Reference: Forest bathing enhances human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins. (Q Li et al. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. Apr-June 2007.)