Why Walking In The Woods Is So Good For You!
In Japan, they call it shinrin-yoku – literally, "forest bathing." Here, we might just call it a walk in the park. It is based on the principle that a loving connection with nature can enhance preventive healthcare, well-being and healing.Nature used to be an integral part of the lives of human beings. But today, our connection to Mother Nature is minimal.
People around the world have an intuitive sense of the restorative power of natural environments. The question is: Why?
Scientists have advanced a wide range of theories about the specific physical and mental benefits nature can provide, ranging from clean air and lack of noise pollution to the apparent immune-boosting effects of a fine mist of "wood essential oils." But the most powerful benefits, a new study suggests, may result from the way trees and birds and sunsets gently tug – but never grab – at our attention.
Forest walks are similar to the practice of mindfulness but instead of focusing on breathing to experience a sense of calmness, participants in forest therapy focus their senses on nature to experience its healing power. Taking healing, mindful walks in nature can increase sensory awareness and bring balance to our lives.
The walks are not designed as a time for physical exercise or as social occasions to chat with friends, she says. Instead, they are leisurely walks that can last for up to three hours. These walks are designed to engage all your senses.
To practice mindful walking, slow your pace and to stop now and then to focus one of their senses on a healing activity. For example, walk silently and slowly like a fox to give yourself a chance to listen to the sounds of nature and also slows down your breathing To engage the sense of smell-smell a flower, a leaf or perhaps a clump of soil. The sense of smell reactivates the brain and often triggers memories from their childhood and makes them feel like a kid again.
It is a way to create some balance in our lives when we’re so busy and occupied by so many things It is a time to switch off and just relax. You will feel more connected to nature using all your senses.
Health benefits of nature
Research on the health benefits of nature, in particular on the immune system, has been conducted in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. One study showed that walking in nature for 90 minutes reduced rumination and associated brain activity, but not urban walking. This was determined using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
Teresa Horton, PhD, an associate professor of research in the anthropology department at Northwestern University and a group of her colleagues, in collaboration with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, conducted a study in 2016-2017 called “Walking Green: Developing an Evidence-base for Nature Prescriptions.”
For the project, a group of ethnically diverse men and women ages 18 to 35 were divided into two groups. One group took solitary walks without cell phones for 50 minutes three times in one week in a forest preserve; the other group took the walks on a city street. All participants took blood tests as well as a battery of psychological tests before and after each walk and had blood tests weekly. After a week off, the groups traded locations and repeated the walks.
The results showed the psychological and physiological health benefits of walking in the woods. “The stress levels and the anxiety levels of those who walked in the woods decreased, and their mood improved to a greater extent following a walk in the woods than on the sidewalk,” Horton says. “For those who had a high blood glucose level that indicated prediabetes, their blood glucose level had gone down five points 72 hours after the last walk. So while walking is good, walking in the woods appears to be better. We think that this might happen because stress interferes with glucose metabolism” and walking in nature lowers that stress.
The study’s results also suggested that you need to continue to get outside on a regular basis, Horton adds. The effects on mood, anxiety and stress did not carry over to the 72-hour follow-up.
You do not have to travel to Colorado or Montana to spend time in nature. You can go someplace where there are trees — a place that gives you a sense that you are away from your daily cares.
Look at some trees or walk along the lake for five minutes a day. Make it to a forest preserve or park once a week, or you can even meditate with your potted plants to get a semi-forest bathing.”