A recent article in the Huffington Post describes the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or “forest-bathing,” which brings together mindfulness with hanging out in nature. Research has shown that even 15 minutes a day can dramatically reduce blood pressure and stress levels.
In a nutshell: turn off your cell phone and take a stroll in any non-urban area for at least 15 minutes. The key is to engage all 5 senses while there by actively noticing and appreciating your surroundings with as much focus as you can muster (like anything, practice will improve your ability to stay in the moment). Try to breathe deeply and become aware of the smell of the trees and sounds like the wind in the trees or water moving through a stream. Touch the grass, tree bark, rocks, or whatever might be in your environment (probably goes without saying but, avoid things like snakes and plants you can’t identify…). Dial in as intensely as you can to what you are experiencing in that moment.
Japanese researchers measured the physiological changes when people walked through wooded areas across 24 forests in Japan and what they found was amazing: “levels of the stress hormone cortisol plummeted almost 16 percent more than when they walked in an urban environment… Subjects’ blood pressure showed improvement after about 15 minutes of the practice.”
But, here’s where is gets really interesting: “one of the biggest benefits may come from breathing in chemicals called phytoncides, emitted by trees and plants. Women who logged two to four hours in a forest on two consecutive days saw a nearly 40 percent surge in the activity of cancer-fighting white blood cells, according to one study.” ‘Phytoncide exposure reduces stress hormones, indirectly increasing the immune system’s ability to kill tumor cells,” says Tokyo-based researcher Qing Li, MD, PhD, who has studied shinrin-yoku.’ Even if you don’t live near a forest, studies suggest that just LOOKING (my emphasis) at green space — say, the trees outside your office window — helps reduce muscle tension and blood pressure.”
I love these simple, elegant, cheap solutions. No monthly gym memberships, expensive unflattering sport-specific clothing, or hot yoga needed… Here’s a little video to get you started (try to ignore the fact that one young women in the video is holding an iPhone, lol…)
A quick note from our founder-
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