Health Beat - Summer 2020 - 7
Your Body in Nature
Other than soaking in fresh air, spending just 20 minutes in nature through
practices such as forest therapy can
significantly lower stress hormones,
according to research in Frontiers
And lower stress hormones come with
additional benefits. Lowered concentrations of cortisol, your body's main stress
hormone, can boost the immune system,
increase the number of anti-cancer proteins in the body and reduce the risk of
heart disease. Lower levels of cortisol
are also known to improve digestion,
enhance sleep quality and ease anxiety
Other studies have shown that natural chemicals given off by plants, known
as phytoncides, are linked with encouraging your body's immune functions.
Beyond these physical and mental
benefits, forest therapy provides a stronger link to the natural world as a whole.
"Forest therapy is about connection,"
says Ben Page, the director of training
at the Association of Nature and Forest
Therapy. "Through the practice, we
become more connected to ourselves, to
other humans and to this moment." As
a result, many believe the sense of connection leads people to feel more content and grounded in their daily lives.
A Beginner's Guide
to Forest Therapy
The great news about forest bathing:
Anyone can do it. The focus is on being
in the woods, not racking up steps or
burning calories, which means people
across fitness levels can enjoy the health
benefits of forest therapy.
A typical session lasts about
40 minutes and takes you less than
a mile through the forest. Page recommends going with someone who is
trained in forest therapy.
"It's much the same as how a yoga
teacher helps students work more
intentionally with the body, as compared to when one attempts to do yoga
via an online video," he says. "There is
something about a skilled human being
supporting your process that allows
people to go much deeper than they
If a guide is not available, start by
simply visiting a nearby forest. No
woods in your area? No problem. Apply
the principles of forest therapy to a
walk in a park or at a plant nursery.
Once there, Page suggests you:
DLeave your phone in your
pocket. Immersing yourself fully and
without distraction is key. Page suggests
setting devices to airplane mode, which
turns off all notifications.
DUse your senses. Listen to the
birds chirping and leaves rustling.
Breathe deeply to notice the smells.
Touch the bark of the trees. Page's only
rule: Don't eat anything you find unless
you are absolutely sure it's safe to eat.
DGo with the flow. When you
notice something that sparks joy and
curiosity, spend time with it. Avoid
thinking in terms of reaching a specific
destination and let yourself be. 1
5 Ways to Use Nature
to Boost Your Well-Being
Studies show that spending more time around nature-even just looking
at pictures of the great outdoors-leads to lower blood pressure, a more
positive mood and better thinking skills.
Here are five simple ways to incorporate the healing powers of nature
in your daily life:
your living space.
Display photos of
nature in your home
apps that feature
sounds of nature.
videos from sites
such as YouTube.
Diffuse essential oils
such as lavender,
lemon and eucalyptus.
FIND a park near you to venture through at nps.gov/findapark
Health Beat - Summer 2020
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Health Beat - Summer 2020
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