The Incredible Health Benefits of Shinrin Yoku: Forest Bathing
Did you know that spending time in nature can boost your health? Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, has been shown to have a number of incredible health benefits. Forest bathing can lower blood pressure, reduce stress levels, improve cardiovascular and metabolic health, and even help with weight loss. In addition, forest bathing has been shown to increase natural killer (NK) cells, promote anti-cancer proteins and strengthen the immune system. If you are looking for ways to improve your health, you should try Shinrin Yoku!
So what is Shinrin Yoku? Forest bathing, or Shinrin Yoku, is a Japanese practice of spending time in nature. This can be anything from a walk in the park to a hike in the forest. The most important thing is that you spend time surrounded by plants and trees.
This is important because the benefits are directly related to phytoncides and terpenes. These are chemicals that plants and trees release into the air to protect themselves from bugs, fungi and other threats. When we breathe in these chemicals, they have a positive effect on our health.
So let's take a closer look at the main benefits of forest bathing:
- Lowering blood pressure
This is one of the most important benefits of forest bathing. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can lower blood pressure. This is probably because spending time in nature helps lower stress levels. When stress levels drop, the parasympathetic nervous system is more active, while the sympathetic nervous system is less active. This leads to a reduction in blood pressure.
- Reduce stress
This is one of the most important benefits of forest bathing. It has been proven that spending time in nature helps to lower stress levels. This is probably because spending time in nature helps us relax and feel more connected to the world around us.
Scientifically speaking, spending time in nature (including seeing plants, trees and other objects and hearing sounds such as wind, birdsong, etc.) is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history. This means that our body and mind can effortlessly and automatically perceive these events, leading to a reduction in sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity and the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
Looking at pictures of trees also has this effect (although to a much lesser extent). Still, it can be a good idea to place images of green plants in your office and living areas (the quickest way to do this is to change your wallpapers on computers and mobile devices).
- Promotes cardiovascular and metabolic health
Bathing in the forest has also been shown to promote cardiovascular and metabolic health. This is because spending time in nature can lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels (as mentioned above).
One study found that 11 more trees per city block reduced cardiometabolic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
It's no secret that most cardiovascular problems are due to stress and high blood pressure. So it's not surprising that swimming in the forest can promote cardiovascular health by reducing both of these factors.
For metabolic health, the cause is a bit more indirect. It seems that spending time in nature can help lower inflammation levels in the body. This is important because inflammation is a major factor in many metabolic diseases (such as obesity, type II diabetes, and fatty liver).
And forest bathing is also associated with lowering blood sugar levels
- Lowering the blood sugar level
Studies have shown that spending time in nature can lower blood sugar levels. This is probably because spending time in nature helps us relax and feel more connected to the world around us.
Because the forest environment affects hormone release and autonomic nervous system function, a walk in the woods is thought to have other health benefits besides increased calories burned and improved insulin sensitivity by lowering blood sugar levels (a study supporting this assumption can be found at here).
- Improve concentration and memory
Forest bathing has also been shown to improve concentration and memory. This is supported by several studies.
In the book Shinrin-Yoku How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness (z. dt. The valuable medicine of the forest) by Dr. Qing Li, for example, points out that researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (UK) have studied the connection between the brain, the body, and background noise. They studied what goes on in people's brains when they hear various sounds of natural or artificial origin.
You can make assumptions about which ones are useful and which ones are potentially harmful.
They found that we are more relaxed when we listen to nature.
While the study participants listened, they had to complete a cognitive task while their heartbeat, nervous system, blood pressure, metabolism and even digestion were monitored. The result was that the participants' attention turned inward when they heard artificial sounds. This inward-focused attention is associated with worry and rumination. In addition, the artificial noises caused them to perform worse on the tests.
However, when they heard nature sounds, their attention turned outward. The nature sounds decreased the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for fight-or-flight decisions, and increased the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with rest and relaxation.
- Depression relief
Depression is a serious problem that affects millions of people around the world. Fortunately, bathing in the forest has been proven to help alleviate depression.
A well-founded study by the University of Exeter (Great Britain) has proven that people living in areas with many trees and green spaces suffer less often from depression and anxiety.
They also found that the positive effects of trees on psychological well-being lasted significantly longer than things like a raise or even a wedding.
Another study (conducted in London) linked tree density to the number of antidepressant prescriptions and found that residents of streets with many trees were prescribed fewer psychotropic drugs than people in areas with few or no trees.
- Increased pain thresholds
Forest bathing has also been shown to help increase pain thresholds. This was found by Roger Ulrich, American professor of health sciences, in his famous paper "The view from the window can influence recovery after surgery".
As a young scientist in the 1980s, he collected data on patients after surgery. He observed that some patients recovered more quickly and were soon sent home, while others took a week or two to recover.
As a teenager, Ulrich himself had several bouts of kidney disease and had to spend many weeks at home in bed. What helped him through those days was his view out the window. He had a view of a large pine tree growing outside.
He wondered if it had anything to do with the prospect that patients recovered at different rates.
Some had looked at trees, others at a brick wall. And lo and behold, he found a correlation. Patients with trees in front of their windows recovered faster than those with a view of the wall.
The latter needed more pain medication and had to stay longer in the hospital. Their mood was also worse.
- Increase energy and drive
If you're looking for a way to boost your energy and drive, spend time in nature. It has been proven that swimming in the woods increases energy levels and drive. This is probably because spending time in nature helps us relax and feel connected to the world around us.
This is associated with the essential oils that trees release in the form of terpenes. It has been found that vaporizing essential oils can have tremendous effects on a stressful work environment. In one experiment, 41 percent of workers before the experiment said they often felt stressed by work.
After the oils were vaporized in the department, this number dropped to 3 percent. Before using essential oils, 13 percent of employees felt well equipped to handle stressful situations at work. After steaming, 58 percent said the same. In addition, subjectively perceived energy increased from 33 percent to 77 percent. At the end of the study, 84 percent of employees specifically said that essential oil diffusion contributed to a more positive work environment.
If that's not impressive, I don't know what is.
- The immune system strengthened
Another great benefit of forest bathing is that it can help strengthen the immune system by increasing natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells are a type of white blood cell that help fight off infection and disease.
One way to measure the health of the immune system is to examine the activity of our natural killer (NK) cells. Natural killer cells are a type of white blood cell and are so called because they can attack and kill unwanted cells such as viruses or tumor cells.
The first forest bathing study conducted by Dr. Qing Li found that after three days and two nights in the forest, NK cell activity increased from 17.3 percent to 26.5 percent. That's a 53.2 percent increase. But not only the activity increased. The number of cells also increased: The number of NK cells rose from 440 to 661 - an increase of 50 percent.
- Increasing the production of anti-cancer proteins
Bathing in the forest has been shown to increase the production of anti-cancer proteins. This was found in the study already mentioned.
During the three days in the forest, the abundance of the anti-cancer protein granulysin increased by 48 percent; for granzyme A it was 39 percent, for granzyme B 33 percent and for perforin 28 percent.
- Helps with weight loss
If you're looking for a way to help with weight loss, you should try Shinrin Yoku. Forest bathing has been proven to help with weight loss. As we've already discussed, forest bathing can also help increase your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories.
But it also lowers stress levels, and stress is one of the biggest benefactors when it comes to overweight and obesity.
People prefer high-calorie, high-fat meals when they are stressed, and their bodies store more fat when they are anxious. Although numerous factors influence weight, claims the Stress in America Survey that stress has an impact on our eating habits (Source).
Okay, that was a lot of information, but you see: there are many incredible health benefits of Shinrin Yoku. If you're looking for ways to improve your health, you should give Shinrin Yoku a try. You'll be surprised how much it can help you! Thanks for reading!