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If You Find Urban Life Stressful, Study Says You Should Try Bathing In The Forest

If You Find Urban Life Stressful, Study Says You Should Try Bathing In The Forest

Feeling overwhelmed or a bit stressed lately? Good news! There is a new type of therapy (technically not new — it’s been used in Japan for years) sweeping the globe that provides free and all-natural stress relief. It’s called Forest Therapy.

Wait!

Before you close this article, understand that this is a real, scientifically based and researched method that is gaining popularity in therapeutic circles. Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Japan’s leading scholar on forest medicine and director of the Center for Environment Health and Field Sciences at Chiba University, has been conducting physiological experiments to examine whether forests can make people feel at ease. He has concluded that what conventional wisdom knew all along was accurate. The forest, through its aromas, sounds of babbling brooks and creatures stirring, coupled with the feeling of sunshine through forest leaves, can have a soothing effect on the human body.

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The Association of Nature and Forrest Therapy defines forest therapy as:

“…a research-based framework for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments. In Japan it is called shinrin yoku, which translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” Studies have demonstrated a wide array of health benefits, especially in the cardiovascular and immune systems, and for stabilizing and improving mood and cognition.”

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Forest bathing I: https://pixabay.com/en/road-forest-trees-tree-trip-21205/

    Forest bathing provides natural stress relief

    Japanese research shows there are physiological impacts of spending time in the woods. Research findings indicate that it does have measurable health benefits, such as:

    • Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells
    • Reduced blood pressure
    • Reduced stress
    • Improved mood
    • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
    • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
    • Increased energy levels
    • Improved sleep

    How it works

    Practicing shinrin yoku is very simple. You go to a forest or heavily wooded area and walk slowly and calmly. Breathe deeply. Allow your senses to become open and engaged. Pretty soon, you will begin to experience the calming, rejuvenating, and restorative benefits of bathing in the forest.

    That’s it.

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    Now, I am sure to some this sounds like a tree-hugging, Eastern religious pseudoscience. However, there is a growing body of evidence that supports the theory that spending time in wooded areas really does have tangible effects on our bodies by boosting energy, combatting depression and anxiety, and providing natural stress relief.

    And if you really think about it, research aside, it actually makes sense. Consider the surroundings of a peacefully wooded area. Crisp clean air fills your nostrils, providing your body with clean oxygen. While breathing in the fresh air, you are also getting a healthy dose of natural aroma therapy.

    Aromatherapy is a type of alternative medicine that uses essential oils and other aromatic plant compounds aimed at improving a person’s mental state and mood. Medical News Today describes the science behind aromatherapy as:

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    “… the inhalation of essential oils stimulates the part of the brain connected to smell — the olfactory system; a signal is sent to the limbic system of the brain that controls emotions and retrieves learned memories. This causes chemicals to be released which make the person feel relaxed, calm, or even stimulated.”

    The difference between forest bathing and other outdoor activities

    Forest bathing is different from other activities people associate with the forest such as hiking, jogging, biking, or fishing in that it is a contemplative exercise rather than an active one. Other forest activities can actually raise stress levels, elevating your heart rate and blood pressure. This process slows down all of the body’s systems, allows the mind to relax, and purposefully engages all of the senses. With other activities, the woods merely serve as a backdrop and the main activities take center stage.

    The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy is just one organization of many that is providing therapeutic services to individuals, groups, and organizations by arranging guided tours by trained and certified forest therapy guides. These services and tours are perfect for those interested in reaping the benefits of all-natural stress relief but are unsure how to get started.

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    Denise Hill

    Speech Writer/Senior Editor

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    Last Updated on May 22, 2019

    10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

    10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

    There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

    One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

    In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

    Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

    1. Cat Camel Stretch

    Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

    Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

    Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

    Here’s a video to guide you through:

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    2. Go for a Walk or a Run

    This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

    Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

    The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

    Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

    Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

    3. Jumping Jacks

    Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

    Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

    4. Abductor Side Lifts

    Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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    Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

    5. Balancing Table Pose

    This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

    Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

    ablab

      6. Leg Squats

      Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

      Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

      The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

      7. Push Ups

      You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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      An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

      Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

      This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

      8. Bicycle Crunches

      There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

      Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

      9. Lunges

      Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

      Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

      This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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      10. Bicep Curls

      You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

      Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

      Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

      Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

      Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

      These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

      You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

      Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

      More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

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