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Six Scientifically Proven Ways a 30-Minute Walk In The Forest Will Improve Your Health

Six Scientifically Proven Ways a 30-Minute Walk In The Forest Will Improve Your Health

There is something inherently magical about a walk through the forest. Just imagine the trees towering around you, sunlight peeking through the tops, the texture, and crackle of the uneven ground beneath your feet. You can almost feel the magic now.

We all know that getting out into nature is good for the soul, but did you know that a walk in the forest can have a tangible and positive effect on your health?

The Secret the Japanese Have Known For Years

Nature-based therapy is nothing new, at least in the East. Developed by Japanese scientists in the 1980s, Shinrin-Yoku (literally translated as “forest-bathing”) is a critical part of the Japanese health and wellness system.

Take it from Dr. Won Sop Shin, Minister of the Korea Forest Service, who stated in October 2015 that, “A study showed that a 30-minute forest trek decreased negative feelings such as stress, depression, anger, fatigue, anxiety, and confusion, and improved cognitive skills.”

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So, take some time out of your usual routine and find some trees! If you’re still not convinced, here are six real health benefits a walk in the forest can have.

Reduces Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is our body’s stress hormone, designed to kick in when we need to fight or flight for our survival. High levels of this hormone can weaken our immune systems, change our metabolism, as well as make us feel tired, stressed, and weak. It is an important hormone to keep in balance. However, keeping that balance isn’t easy in our fast-paced, high-stress lives. That’s where a walk in the forest can help.

One study, conducted in two dozen forests across Japan with nearly 500 participants, concluded that a walk in the forest significantly decreased levels of cortisol. The hormone’s levels dropped nearly 16 percent more than when the same person walked in an urban environment. Additionally, the participants’ blood pressure showed improvement after spending just 15 minutes in the forest.

Lowers Blood Sugar

Studies have shown that forest therapy effectively decreases blood-glucose levels in diabetic patients. In a 1998 study, patients were given blood-glucose tests before walking in the forest, and were tested afterward to measure any changes. The forest environment itself can cause “changes in hormonal secretion and autonomic nervous functions” that can help lower blood sugars, as well as the added physical exercise from walking. However, it is the combination of walking in the forest where patients saw the most improvement.

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Improves Concentration and Brain Function

Forest walking is a natural mood enhancer, but it can also help our brains function better and can even improve concentration. A research team from Chiba University collected data from two large groups of adults: 500 who took part in forest therapy, and 500 who didn’t. In a study published in 2013, researchers confirmed that “spending time within a forest can reduce psychological stress, depressive symptoms, and hostility, while at the same time improving sleep and increasing both vigor and a feeling of liveliness.”

Improves Mood

We’ve always known that fresh air, exercise, and getting out in nature can improve our mood, but there is real evidence that forest walking can actually decrease clinical depression, and help patients with alcoholism.

Dr. Shin says, “Forests can improve psychological stability in patients with depression and alcoholism. Scores on the Beck Depression Inventory decreased among patients with depression and scores on a self-esteem measure increased among individuals with alcohol use disorder, after participating in a forest healing program.”

Fights Off Allergy Symptoms

Tom Ogren, author of The Allergy Fighting Garden, says most allergy sufferers don’t have to worry too much when they are truly in nature. He says, “In nature, things are much more in balance, certainly the trees and shrubs are in a gender balance, and there is usually around one female tree for every male tree in the wild. This horticultural balance keeps the air cleaner, is better for everyone, especially anyone with allergies or asthma.”

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For those with allergies, a walk in the forest can actually boost your own immunity and improve your allergic reactions as you get more exposure to nature. Dr. Shin says, “Patients with pediatric asthma or atopic dermatitis obtained relief from their symptoms after undergoing a forest healing program.”

If you’re looking for respite from allergies, stop leafing through pages of air purifier reviews, and just get outside!

Helps Your Body Fight Cancer Cells

Just the scent of trees can assist your body in fighting cancer cells, according to a 2009 study.

One of the biggest benefits of forest-bathing comes from a compound called phytoncide, which is derived from trees and plants and is breathed in by humans during forest therapy. It is this phytoncide exposure that helps our bodies, explains Dr. Shin, by increasing our levels of a particular brand of disease-fighting white blood cells. “The forest environment can boost the immune system by increasing the number of natural killer cells, which may facilitate recovery from cancer. Actually, the forest healing program was found to facilitate the recovery of breast cancer patients.”

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Conclusion

Our bodies were meant to live in nature, and it is nature itself that is our healer.

Step away from the screen and make it a date: you and the forest.

Your mind, body, and soul will thank you for it.

Featured photo credit: Dustin Scarpitti via magdeleine.co

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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