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Step Away from the Computer and Take a Hike

Step Away from the Computer and Take a Hike

May 18, 2021
Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, has shown that being in nature for as little as two hours can reduce blood pressure, improve memory and boost the immune system.

While it has been fun, at least for me, to see colleagues and business associates on the screen every day, one of the best parts of my working day is my hike at lunch. And I mean hike. I walk into the woods and watch the deer conduct their daily routines. I know it makes me feel better being in the woods, as opposed to walking around my neighborhood.

It turns out there is a scientific reason for this.  Research done by Dr. Qing Li  Qing, 56, a professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, on what is called shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing, has shown that being in nature for as little as two hours can reduce blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels, improve memory and boost the immune system. Furthermore, as reported by ozy.com, average sleep increased by 15% white blood cells responsible for fighting cancer shot up and the stress hormone cortisol; dropped.  

  In Dr. Quing's book, The Art of Science and Forest Bathing," he spells out further health benefits of this practice, including lifting depression, improving pain thresholds and improving energy. 

This exercise began in 1982 in Japan as part of a national health program that both encouraged visits to the forest for health reasons and also to protect the forests. There are now 62 designated forest bathing spots in Japan, which are used by 5 million people a year.

Some of the best places to practice this in the U.S., according to matador, are:

  • Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California
  • Olympic National Park, Washington
  • Poconos, Pennsylvania
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Stowe, Vermont
  • Sedona, Arizona
  • Finger Lakes, New York
  • Greensboro, North Carolina

So how does one do this? In an article in Time, Dr. Quing explains:

The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of the forest and breathe in the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides. Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. Place your hands on the trunk of a tree. Dip your fingers or toes in a stream. Lie on the ground. Drink in the flavor of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm. This is your sixth sense, a state of mind. Now you have connected with nature. You have crossed the bridge to happiness.

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