Shinrin-yoku (the Japanese practice of forest bathing), has been scientifically proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, to reduce stress hormone production and strengthen your immune system after a quick 40-minute visit.
Shinrin-yoku, the act of soaking in nature through all five senses, was inspired by ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices and actually promoted as therapy by Japan's forests ministry in 1982. The idea is to simply relax and take in the beauty of your natural surroundings. Just be with trees. Relax rather than accomplish anything.
From 2004 to 2012, Japanese officials spent about $4 million dollars studying the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing, designating 48 therapy trails based on the results. In a 2009 study, Qing Li, a professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, studied subjects before and after they experienced forest bathing. Li measured an increase in natural killer (NK) white blood cells that are associated with the body's innate immune system. These cells provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells and respond to tumor formation, and are associated with immune system health and cancer prevention. In this study Li’s subjects showed significant increases in NK cell activity in the week after a forest visit, and positive effects lasted a month following each weekend in the woods.
This is due to various essential oils, generally called phytoncide, found in wood, plants, and some fruit and vegetables, which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects. Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better— inhaling phytoncide seems to actually improve immune system function.
If you've been feeling particularly amped recently, a dose of the great outdoors could also soothe your spirit. The psychological effects
of an afternoon walk through the park include a significant decrease in stress and depression symptoms, as well as reduced hostility and even "increased liveliness."
It's time to find a nearby green space, break away from your screen, remove your earbuds, and soak in some nature.