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"Forest bathing" reduces cortisol, aids mood, immune system

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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/06/health/06real.html

 

The Claim: Exposure to Plants and Parks Can Boost Immunity, Lower Cortisol

 

By ANAHAD O’CONNOR July 5, 2010 NYTimes

 

THE FACTS

 

....for those who can take the heat and cope with the pollen, spending more time in nature might have some surprising health benefits. In a series of studies, scientists found that when people swap their concrete confines for a few hours in more natural surroundings — forests, parks and other places with plenty of trees — they experience increased immune function.

 

Stress reduction is one factor. But scientists also chalk it up to phytoncides, the airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect them from rotting and insects and which also seem to benefit humans.

 

One study published in January included data on 280 healthy people in Japan, where visiting nature parks for therapeutic effect has become a popular practice called “Shinrin-yoku,” or “forest bathing.” On one day, some people were instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours, while others walked through a city area. On the second day, they traded places. The scientists found that being among plants produced “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure,” among other things.

 

A number of other studies have shown that visiting parks and forests seems to raise levels of white blood cells, including one in 2007 in which men who took two-hour walks in a forest over two days had a 50-percent spike in levels of natural killer cells. And another found an increase in white blood cells that lasted a week in women exposed to phytoncides in forest air.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

According to studies, exposure to plants and trees seems to benefit health.

_______________________________

 

 

And here's another study, from the BBC in the UK:

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8654350.stm

 

'Green' exercise quickly 'boosts mental health'

Saturday, 1 May 2010 00:01 UK

 

Just five minutes of exercise in a "green space" such as a park can boost mental health, researchers claim.

 

In the latest analysis, UK researchers looked at evidence from 1,250 people in 10 studies and found fast improvements in mood and self-esteem.

....

 

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said the research is yet further evidence that even a short period of green exercise can provide a low cost and drug-free therapy to help improve mental wellbeing.

 

"It's important that people experiencing depression can be given the option of a range of treatments, and we would like to see all doctors considering exercise as a treatment where appropriate."

...."

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From http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/taking-charge-blog/take-5-managing-stress-turbulent-times , an online walk in Nature.

 

Take 5: If you have only 5 minutes to spare or if you can't get outside, check out this short video that immerses you in a northern Minnesota forest as spring unfolds. Created by renowned nature photographer Craig Blacklock in collaboration with the Center for Spirituality & Healing, this unique video uses guided imagery paired with verbal prompts, music, and nature sounds to lead you through a series of stress reduction exercises.

 

You can choose to watch the video in one of three ways:

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Very interesting - I've felt much worse living in a barren desert area of Southern California with very little green - it feels so dead especially in the hot summer -

A few times I went to a golf course or small strip of green anywhere just to get some green -

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On a somewhat related subject, lately I've been hearing about "earthing," as being beneficial for one's health. Something I've been meaning to look into.

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I live in Jupiter Florida which is a beautiful place. I am originally from NYC. Every Saturday morning @ 9am I go to an Al-anon Meeting under the Juno Beach Pier and I immediatley feel a sense of peace. The view is gorgeous and the meetings are great.

 

Al-Anon is for friends & families of alcoholics.

 

Hugs

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Has anyone been getting oustide more with Spring underway?

 

I have restarted walking, but would like to do some 'walking in the woods'... It's going to get tougher as in a few weeks it will be very very hot without interruption until late September.

 

Anyone have any experience?

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Alto that video was lovely and there are alot more to check out....Hooray for Youtube :)

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The cherry trees are

blooming now on the city

streets. Warm breezes waft.

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Alto, that sounds so nice. It was in the triple digits here yesterday. I've always been a summer person, but the extreme heat is stifling where I live now. It's early morning or evening activity. Everyone stays inside during day. Fortunately, I can drive just up the hill and it's about 10-20 degrees cooler.

 

Alex, do you have areas where the temps are more tolerable? I was going thru Texas last summer and that heatwave was brutal.

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Gardening does it for me. Just walking around the beds quirting vinegar on weeds or noting how new plants are coming along is very de-stressing. Today I planted a Black Beauty Elderberry and despite the cold weather, wet knees, and muddy hands, I definitely felt much better afterward.

 

I'm wondering if having an arrangement of houseplants in the bedroom would do the same thing and perhaps take the edge off in the mornings? Anyone know?

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This is reminding me that I need to get out into the woods again...I went to the beach this past weekend and walked a lot along the beach and felt so much better afterwards, even slept for a long time.

 

I go for walks in town and it's better than nothing but it's not the same as going out into the woods or to the ocean.

 

Makes sense, really, that we would be healthiest in the environment our bodyminds evolved to be adapted to. (Which was not cities full of petrochemicals. And buildings full of fluorescent lights and polluted air.)

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Alex, do you have areas where the temps are more tolerable? I was going thru Texas last summer and that heatwave was brutal.

 

Not entirely. It's pretty hot within 500 miles in any direction.

 

Evidently, the advent of air conditioning was the greatest factor in Houston's development into a metropolis. Due to the heat, in the summer nobody does anything outside except early morning or after 7pm, for the most part. Last summer was horrid. Not only did a lot of places burn, but there were occasional reports of healthy people -- I especially recall a high school football coach aged 50 -- just dropping dead from heat exposure. I hope it's more mild this year.

 

One exceptional thing: We have a public spring, it's pretty famous. The water stays 68 F year round which is amazing b/c the lake water is 90 plus degrees come August. I could go swim there. Also, maybe I can get out of town for a short while?? I'd like to visit the Big Sky mountain west, Montana or Idaho or something.

 

Alex

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Forgive if this has been posted elsewhere, but in thinking about a weird 'forest bathing' experience I had (my intro topic), I came across this:

 

http://labyrinthlocator.com/

 

Oh! There's one within a few miles of me, at a Hospice! And I noted a site that mentioned that Goog maps has a locator for labyrinths.

 

Yummy!

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http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/how-nature-changes-the-brain/

How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain
By Gretchen Reynolds NY Times July 22, 2015
 

....

So for the new study, which was published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mr. Bratman and his collaborators decided to closely scrutinize what effect a walk might have on a person’s tendency to brood.

Brooding, which is known among cognitive scientists as morbid rumination, is a mental state familiar to most of us, in which we can’t seem to stop chewing over the ways in which things are wrong with ourselves and our lives. This broken-record fretting is not healthy or helpful. It can be a precursor to depression.

....

the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk....

 

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I can say that I find walking in nature really helpful. Whenever I feel more able, I go on walks with my mom to the local parks. One of the parks has a large forest area and I go there. There's also a nice mountain near my city, but I feel too fragile to go there right now because my mom doesn't drive and we don't have a car and have to use public transportation, which makes me feel vulnerable. But on the whole, I find nature very soothing and often wish I lived in the forest. I also find water very soothing - lakes, rivers, even city fountains. I also wish I had a garden, I love gardens and find them very therapeutic, but I live in an apartment. Maybe I can start building a small indoors garden? It's better than nothing. 

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I remember reading Alto's posts of forest bathing. Even though I haven't been feeling that great, I decided to go the New York Botanical Gardens. I haven't been there years and I have to say it was just fabulous. The tour guide mentioned there were over a million plants and trees in the gardens. We were walking for hours in the different gardens. I smelled a lot of the flowers, took pictures, it was great. There was an impressionist art exhibit with different painted flower scenes in the library there, and later you could go the gardens where the same flowers were planted. It was a great distraction and I highly recommend it.

 

Marie

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Nature, especially forests, has always been a great healer for me. Ten years ago I had a burn out, and after a few months, when I felt a bit better and slowly went back to work, I sometimes spent two days in a row during the weekend walking on paths in the woods. It lowered the heartbeats and calmed down the whole system. I became a forest addict! :)

"Forest bathing", such a great expression.

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Well, after reading about your gee walk I went out and chopped some sawgrass, which is the bane of Florida gardeners. Felt super fatigued when I started, and only slightly more fatigued when I stopped

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Not the real thing but this video is amazing. Last night my BP was high but lowered within 15 minutes of watching this. It's the best thing I've seen in ages. 

 

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Oh that's brilliant. I have that campfire thing on my YouTube favourites but I never thought to use it to calm my symptoms down. I'm going to try that tomorrow morning when my symptoms are spiked. 

I remember trying to earth myself in the last withdrawal spike I had which was in winter. Deeply unpleasant to stand barefoot on frozen ground but I was doing anything that might bring me relief. I do think it was worth it although the neighbours probably thought I was a madwoman. 

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