Getting out in nature for a spot of forest therapy
Forest Therapy or forest 'bathing' is the latest nature based therapy where stressed out Japanese people are being sent by their Doctors to 'chill out'. Interestingly, there is a stress hormone in our salivary glands called salivary cortisol, which reduces when we gaze at nature.
Researchers in Japan are saying that by being out in forests in particular, it lowers stress levels and helps people to feel at ease.
When you think about it and as researchers point out, humans have lived in nature for millions of years. Living in urban societies is somewhat foreign for us. Makes sense to me.
Miyazaki (one of the researchers) points out "When we are exposed to nature, our bodies go back to how they should be."
I have a girlfriend who walks the Bibbulum Track in Western Australia and she's a total devotee of bush walking and praises the benefits of being out in nature. She camps for days (sometimes weeks at a time) and absolutely loves it!
We all know how good we feel after a hike, but Japanese researchers are uncovering that the health benefits are still apparent 30 days later. Li Qing, a senior assistant professor of 'forest medicine' at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo has conducted experiments to see whether spending time in a forest increases the activity of people's natural killer (NK) cells, a component of the immune system that fights cancer.
He takes groups of people out into the forest for a 'leisurely stroll' and an overnight stay. He says that the immune systems are strengthened in all participants. This in turn, boosts resistance against stress.
Li said the increase in NK activity can be attributed partly to inhaling air containing phytoncide, or essential wood oils given off by plants.
Forests gratify the five senses by providing the sounds of birds, cool air, green leaves, the touch of trees, wild plants and grasses.
If you are walking through the National Park in Noosa or in some other part of the Sunshine Coast (let's face it, we are totally spoilt here with glorious national parks, waterfalls, and forests) gazing at the ocean, spotting the odd dolphin or koala further enhances our state of being. Peace and Inner Balance Restored.
Businesses in Japan are now offering forest therapy as part of their health care program for their workers.
This is fantastic stuff as prevention is always better than a cure in my book, so, for stressed-out workers, this may someday be a doctor's prescription: Walk around in the bush.