FOREST THERAPY- A health-remedy for Urban Dwellers.
Spending time in nature: Tree-Forest, Water-bodies, and Natural landscapes improves our Physical and Mental Health status.
Japan (the country with the highest life-expectancy) has taken the lead in Forest Therapy.
In 1982, Japan adopted a National Health Program, SHINRIN-YOKU (forest immersion, forest shower or simply, spending more time in the woods), as a way to promote both Physical and Mental Health
Practicing Shinrin-Yoku regularly stimulates the five senses, simultaneously.
. Looking at the green foliage; the colorful Birds and Butterflies.
. Smelling the plant fragrances and oils.
. Tasting the fruits and plant syrup.
. Listening to birds that sing, the breeze blowing through the foliage.
. Touching the tree barks while in the woods, dipping the toes and fingers in the water, standing or sitting on the hard rocks, may fully immerse oneself in nature.
Trees and plants emit aromatic volatile oily substances, known as Phytoncides. Phytoncides protect plants from insects and germs. Phytoncides are also found in fruits and vegetables too.
- Phytoncides saturate the forest environment. Here are some of the health benefits.
Phytoncides decrease the risk of getting cancers by activating natural killer cells
Natural killers (NK) cells are lymphocytic white blood cells that patrol the blood circulation, seeking to destroy any cancer cells, and virus-infected cells in the body. NK cells help the body to get rid of cancer cells and germ-infected cells.
Plant phytoncides (alpha-pinene, limonene) improve the immune system by Increasing NK activity and Increasing anti-cancer proteins in NK cells.
According to Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki of Chiba University in Japan, the increased NK activity last for about 30 days after a single 2-hour trip to the forest. To maintain the cancer-prevention-activities of NK cells at adequate levels, we must visit the forest at least, once a month.
- Phytoncides Promote General Well-being.
Apart from preventing infections and cancers, forest exposure protects us from lifestyle-related diseases, including the following:
. Cardiovascular health:
. Forest bathing reduces BP and pulse rates and heart diseases by reducing adrenaline levels
. Diabetes mellitus:
. Forest bathing activities Lower Blood sugar levels among type-2 diabetics
. Obesity and metabolic health:
. Forest bathing Increases serum adiponectin (a hormone secreted by fat cells that regulate obesity related diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.
Forest bathing reduces the levels of stress hormones and thus reduces the body’s stress response
For city dwellers: Spending time in nature, away from modern technology and big cities can improve your physical and mental health by reducing the effects of stress on your body.
. Forest bathing reduces inflammation
Depression and Mental health:
. One Big Advantage of Forest bathing is that it acts as a mood-booster and is therefore an Antidepressant.
Forest-bathing It also reduces the levels of Psychological Stress, Anxiety, Anger Fatigue and Confusion
Brain Health & Mental activity:
. Forest bathing. Improves Memory, Concentration, and Creativity. Forest therapy reset the attention span
HOW TO DO FOREST BATHING OR FOREST THERAPY
Forest therapy involves walking leisurely in the woods (getting closer to trees) and taking deep breaths all the time, while observing quietly the wonders of the forest environment.
. Take a slow-walk.
. Lie on the ground.
. Sit on a rock or bench in the woods;
. Notice the foliage.
. Smell the trees.
. Listen to the birds sing.
You may even choose to walk bare-footed in the forest if the environment is safe enough.
Question: What if there is no forest in the neighborhood?
Answer: No Problem! Even though taking a walk in a real forest reaps the highest health benefit, the following activities are also beneficial.
. You may stand under a near-by tree and take regular deep breaths.
. You may lay on a patch of healthy grass.
. You may go to a nature park.
. You may place a plant by the window and observe it regularly
. There is evidence to suggest that focusing on pictures of a forest may have some health benefits!
. All homes should be adorned with trees and or plant-gardens. This was the practice decades ago. Most public schools had their school-gardens. One house one Tree-plant is achievable.
The Forestry department and the Parks and Garden Agencies can give advice and provide help and technical support
. One District one Park or Forest reserve is an achievable policy.
. We must follow Japan's example and adopt Forest bathing as a Preventive Health Policy
Once a week or at least, once a month, we should take our eyes off the screens and modern gadgets and go deeply into nature. It is where Peace, Tranquility and Happiness lie.