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Could 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 among trees and nature does have a positive impact on your health.

The Japanese have a term for this: Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest bathing.” It refers to taking time to soak in the beauty and benefits of nature. Recent studies have given us some scientific reasons explaining these benefits.

Trees and plants produce essential wood oils called “phytoncides.” These chemicals protect the trees from harmful insects and germs due to their anti-fungal and anti-bacterial qualities.

Shinrin-Yoku Benefits for Humans

Researchers have also found benefits to humans such as these:

  • Boosted immune system
  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Lower blood pressure levels
  • Reduced stress
  • Increased energy levels
  • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Improved sleep
  • Accelerated recovery time from surgical procedures and illness
  • Improved mood

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the benefits of forest bathing:

Immune System Benefits

As you walk through a forest, you breathe in those phytoncides that the trees and plants give off. (The phytoncides create that “forest” scent you smell in a wooded area.) Once these chemicals enter your body, they cause your immune system to respond by increasing the number and activity of special white blood cells known as “natural killer” cells (NK). And the job of the NK cells is to protect us by killing off other cells that have been infected with tumors or viruses.

Blood Pressure/Stress Levels Lower

Numerous studies show that spending 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

Help for ADHD Sufferers

Children with ADHD suffer from Attention Fatigue. When these children spend time in nature, this fatigue is reduced. Because of this, researchers are now investigating using forest bathing to supplement other approaches to managing ADHD.

Big “Forest Bathing” Take-Away

The amazing find in this research is the length of time the effects of forest bathing lasted. For example, researchers in Japan sent a group of men on a 3-day, 2-night trip to a forest. The scientists then compared results to those when these same men spent equal time as a tourist in a city.

They found that the NK cells as well as granulysin-, granzyme A/B- and perforin-expressing cells, were still “significantly higher” seven days after the trip to the forest. (The same was not true however after the city trips.) After 30 days, increased activity and number of these cells was still seen.

Their conclusion was that a monthly trip to practice “Shinrin-Yoku” may help you to maintain a higher level of NK cells, those which help to kill virus or tumor cells when they invade your body.

Photo by Charles Black on Unsplash

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