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Could the Practice of Shinrin-Yoku Improve Your Health?

Have you ever gone to a forested area and walked around? How did you feel afterward? Did you feel refreshed, less stressed and more energetic? If so, evidence shows that spending time amongst trees and nature does have a positive impact on our health. The Japanese have a term for this: Shinrin-Yoku (Shinrin = “forest”; yoku = bathing). What they mean by this term is taking time to soak in the beauty and benefits of nature. Recent studies have shown that there are scientific reasons explaining these benefits.

The essential wood oils of plants called “phytoncides” are largely responsible for the health improvements noted. These phytoncides are chemicals produced by trees and plants to protect themselves from harmful insects and germs through their anti-fungal and anti-bacterial qualities. Researchers have also found these benefits to humans:

  • Boost immune system
  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Lower blood pressure levels
  • Reduce stress
  • Increase energy levels
  • Increase ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Improve sleep
  • Accelerate recovery time from surgical procedures and illness
  • Improve mood

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the benefits of Shinrin-Yoku, or forest bathing:

Immune System

As we walk through a forest, we breathe in the phytoncides that the trees and plants give off. (The phytoncides are what creates that “forest” scent you smell as you walk in a wooded area.) Once these chemicals enter our bodies, they cause our immune system to respond by increasing the number and activity of special white blood cells known as “natural killer” cells (NK). The job of the NK cells in our bodies is to kill off other cells that have been infected with tumors or viruses, protecting us from the tumors and viruses.

Blood Pressure and Stress Levels

Numerous studies show that taking time in a forest reduces blood pressure as well as two stress-related hormones, cortisol and adrenalin. “In addition, in studies using the POMS test, forest bathing trips were found to significantly increase the score for vigor and decrease the scores for anxiety, depression, and anger, suggesting that the subjects were physiologically relaxed during the forest bathing trips .”1

Ability to Focus

Children with ADHD suffer from Attention Fatigue. Studies show that when these children spend time outdoors in natural environments, they experience a reduction in Attention Fatigue. Researchers are now investigating the possibility of using forest bathing to supplement other approaches to managing ADHD.

The amazing aspect to this research is the amount of time that the effects of Shinrin-Yoku lasted. Researchers in Japan sent a group of men on a 3-day, 2-night trip to a forest and compared results to those found when these men spent time traveling as a tourist in the city for the same amount of time. They found that the NK cells (mentioned earlier) as well as granulysin-, granzyme A/B- and perforin-expressing cells, were still “significantly higher” seven days after the trip to the forest but not after the city trips. After 30 days, there was still increased activity and number of many of these cells. Their conclusion was that a monthly trip to a forest may help individuals to maintain a higher level of NK cells, those which help to kill virus or tumor cells which invade our bodies.

1ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/

Photo by Charles Black on Unsplash

Handwriting

Handwriting Tips to Avoid Painful Hands

Pain while writing can be a result of something as simple as a tightened muscle, to something more involved such as arthritic changes. Handwriting doesn’t have to be painful, however. If we learn to use our hands and our writing implements properly, pain can be avoided or at least lessened.

  • Sit upright so that you are not putting your body weight on your forearm as you write. Doing so can put pressure on nerves and create pain.
  • It is best for your upper and lower arm to form an “L” or a wider angle as you write. The more your elbow is bent the greater the hand and wrist strain will be.
  • Keep your fingers and hand relaxed. Be aware of the back of your hand remaining relaxed.
  • Watch for knuckles turning white. This is a tell-tale evidence of tension.
  • The more open your fingers are the better. Curled (as opposed to curved) fingers put more tension on the flexor tendons and can lead to pain.
  • Allow your wrist and forearm to move your writing implement rather than your fingers. Keep your fingers as still as possible.
  • Be sure that your paper is at an angle that allows your wrist to stay relaxed. If not, rearrange your work space until the wrist is “neutral”—straight in relation to your hand and forearm, as it looks when it is hanging comfortably at your side.
  • If your thumb is painful while writing, try supporting your pencil in the web space between the index finger and middle (long) finger.
  • Use cursive as much as possible. Cursive writing puts less strain on the hands than printing.
  • Practice writing with larger lines. Larger handwriting is less stressful on the hands than small, cramped writing.
  • Use writing implements that are larger in diameter. They allow your hand to be more open.
  • Use rubber grips, tubing or tape on the end of your pencils and pens to reduce the amount of force necessary to grip.
  • Pens with easy flow ink, gel, or roller balls require less pressure and put less friction between the tip and the paper. Try switching to one of those.
  • Be sure to pace yourself. Take breaks when writing, and write more slowly.

Happy handwriting!

As usual, please feel free to let us know which of these ideas was the most helpful to you by leaving a comment below.

See also:

http://maronewellness.com/what-do-you-look-like-when-you-use-your-phone-or-tablet/

http://maronewellness.com/i-pad-hand-the-new-technology-syndrome/

http://maronewellness.com/taking-care-of-that-not-so-furry-mouse/