Why being outside feels so good: The science of "Shinrin-yoku”
Friday, June 23, 2017
My love of the forest When I feel stressed, down or overwhelmed, one of my first instincts is to “run to the woods.” I grew up with frequent contact with nature, living in the countryside of Green Bay, with forests, streams and large farm fields to explore. This contact has continued to grow through my life and is vital to my well-being. It helps me achieve a state of balance that counteracts the stress of my busy life.
Nature therapy When I did my Integrative Medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona, I was so excited the day my professor lectured on nature therapy or “Shinrin-yoku.” Finally, a practice that had always been important to me was being supported by the medical community!
Shinrin-yoku In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term “Shinrin-yoku.” In English, this means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” The research behind this practice is growing, with early studies showing exposure to nature leads to lower cortisol levels, improved heart rate and blood pressure and improved parasympathetic nervous system activity.
Scientifically proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:
- Boosted immune function
- Improved mood
- Increased energy
- Improved sleep
- Accelerated recovery from surgery
The experience What I experience in nature is a quiet mind, greater intuition, improved energy flow, a greater appreciation for nature and the environment, more joy and a great connection with my friends and family. The purpose of Shinrin-yoku is to take your time and use your senses; to unwind, breathe deeply and take in the smells, sights and sounds of the forest.
Some nature trails in Green Bay Some of my favorite places to experience nature around Green Bay are:
Your prescription My prescription for you is easy! Wherever you live or whatever stage of life you’re in, start incorporating your own form of nature therapy into your health practice. Commit to getting outside most days of the week. You don’t need a forest. You can use your yard or sit on the patio with some potted plants. Just smell and touch the leaves, see the sky and wait for the magic to happen!
Dr. Lynn Wagner is an integrative lifestyle medicine physician with BayCare Clinic. She is fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine and offers this increasingly popular approach to healthcare to patients in Northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Dr. Wagner is also board certified in Emergency Medicine which gives her a unique combination of skills to care for her patients.
Away from the office, the Green Bay area native enjoys running, cycling with her family, hiking, spending time with her family and relishes the excitement of all the outdoors activities Wisconsin’s winter season has to offer.