Radical urbanists will have to give in. Contact with nature provides health benefits as proven by the University of Chiba, near Tokyo. It reduces stress by 16%, blood pressure by 2% and cardiac pressure by 4%. And now the biggest benefit: it increases by 100% activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which measures the level of relaxation. And the Japanese warn: a day in the nature provides benefits that stay in the organism for one month.
Researchers conducted more than 50 studies with aromas of essential oils from forest plants and trees at Yoshifumi Miyazaki’s laboratory at the University of Chiba. 600 volunteers were recruited to participate in the research.
The experience confirmed that therapy time spent in a forest-type setting realigned the body’s hormonal and cellular responses. One study showed that individuals who merely looked at a peaceful forest setting for 20 minutes experienced an average drop of 13.4% in salivary cortisol, a marker for stress. People also benefitted from a lower pulse rate and blood pressure.
The scientific explanation for this process are phytoncides, a chemical that plants release to protect themselves from invasive pests. Breathing in these vapors activates our immune system’s Natural Killer (NK) cells – which are potent lymphocytes that ward off infection and suppress cancer growth. People who participated in a series of three-day trips to the forest (which included daily walks) exhibited a 50% increase in activity and number of NK cells. These benefits didn’t disappear once subjects left the forest, they subsisted for up to a month.
The Energy from Nature Recharges the Mind and the Brain
All natural environments – forests, oceans, mountains – truly energize the body. These places are full of negative ions and increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, increasing alertness and decreasing lethargy. When we are out of balance and depleted of negative ions, our bodies respond with fatigue, bone loss, compromised sleep, overactive adrenal glands, anxiety, depression, chronic inflammation and reduced cardiovascular and brain function. That’s a lot.
Give your body a healthy dose of negative ions it needs by walking in nature daily or weekly. Those who are more nature oriented can even amplify the benefits by walking barefoot on conductive surfaces such as grass, sand or dirt. This practice, called ground therapy (or earthing), has been revealed to lower inflammation, improve blood viscosity, manage physical pain and emotional disturbances, enhance sleep and lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
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