Spending this weekend in Hudson Valley immersing myself in the woods and snow. Feeling a million miles away from the day-to-day stress of my favorite megacity, New York, and a busy, sleep-depriving job. Out here in the wilderness, I’ve slept better, pooped better, and just feel like I’ve shed a skin of anxiety and worry. Turns out, the practice of forest bathing, or “Shinrin-yoku” has been studied for years in Japan and means “taking in the forest atmosphere through all of our senses.” It’s nature therapy… and it’s necessary for all of us!
Most of us are familiar with a daily state of stress. Psycholgical stress is compounded by "technostress", where forms of technologies that expose us to more artificial elements contribute to the exacerbation of our stress levels. These stressors induce neurohormonal changes in our body and create a hyperactive sympathethic nervous system overdrive. This stress response wreaks havoc on the body, including the most awful consequence of altering bowel habits and causing gut distress. To combat all that badness, exposure to stimuli from natural sources induces a state of hyperactivity and hyperawareness of the parasympathetic nervous system that renders a person in a state of relaxation.
Forest bathing has been studied since the 1990s when it was found that spending time in a forest environment reduced salivary cortisol levels, the “stress hormone”. Subsequently many more studies have shown that forest immersion causes the following physiologic changes:
- decreases heart rate
- decreases blood pressure
- decreases urine adrenaline
- decreases blood glucose levels
- increases NK-cell activity
Take away: forest bathing will boost your immune system, fight metabolic syndrome, and normalize your sympathetic system overdrive, ensuring gut happiness. So get out into the woods, turn off that sympathetic overdrive, and get back to good bowel habits!--- REST & DIGEST!