If you spend one day in the forest, you have 40 percent more natural killer cells in your blood.— CLEMENS ARVAY, Biologist
But in the last few generations, we’ve managed to distance ourselves from nature in ways our ancestors would have never imagined. Today we can earn a living, go shopping, have a social life, and enjoy endless entertainment without ever leaving the house. Unless we have somewhere to go, there’s no practical reason to venture outside.
Our indoor lifestyle is clean, comfortable, and convenient, but it may also be starving us of something vital to our wellbeing.
According to Clemens Arvay, an Austrian biologist and author of “The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature
“our bodies were meant to spend much of our time outdoors. Being in nature not only calms our minds, it may actually help prevent and treat disease. “If you spend one day in the forest, you have 40 percent more natural killer cells in your blood,” Arvay said. “Forest air can also increase the production of DHEA in our adrenal cortex. This substance protects us from coronary heart disease and heart attack.” (quote from The Epoch Times.com)
Forest air has shown to increase the level of proteins that prevent cancer or fight a tumour if you already have cancer. This increased anti-cancer activity lasts for days after you’ve left the woods.
A study done by Stanford University found that individuals who spent 90 minutes walking in nature showed significantly decreased activity in an area of the brain linked to depression. Stanford also found that those who live in cities are at a 20% greater risk of suffering from anxiety and a 40% greater risk of suffering from a mood disorder than those who live in rural areas.
Much of this evidence comes from Japan, where a walk in the woods is recognized as a legitimate treatment. In 2012, Japanese universities created a new medical research department called Forest Medicine. The roots of this new branch of medicine stem from an ancient Japanese tradition called shinrin-yoku (forest bathing).
One of the reasons forest air can trigger disease-fighting benefits is a family of plant compounds called terpenes. These volatile phytochemicals allow plants to communicate with each other and maintain the forest ecosystem.
“When a pathogen enters the forest, the plants and trees that suffer the first attack will increase their immune function and release specific terpenes into the forest air,” Arvay said. “Then other plants detect those terpenes in the forest air and know the message: Attention, we are under attack.”
This biochemical communication allows plants in a distant area of the forest to protect themselves against an invading organism.
“What’s so fascinating is that when we enter the forest and breathe in those terpenes from plant communication, our immune system also improves its function,” Arvay said.
Nature Deficit Disorder
While forests have a unique effect on our mind and body, Arvay says exposure to any kind of wilderness setting is beneficial. A more open space, like a savanna, for example, has been shown to stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, helping us to relax and regenerate.
The problem is that many of us city dwellers either have little access to wilderness or aren’t interested in seeking it out.
Nature can sharpen the mind, according to Rachel and Steven Kaplan, environmental psychology professors at the University of Michigan. The Kaplans have shown that exposure to nature restores our capacity for directed attention—the type of focus we need for school and work.
There are also ways to bring the wilderness even closer. Covering every conceivable space of our urban environments with plants, such as rooftop gardens, green corridors, and growing facades. Even try burning forest scent aromatherapy oils in our homes. It would also create a living space more in tune with our mind and body.
We are a part of nature, we come from nature, we eat from nature and we will return to nature. If we separate ourselves from our natural habitats it will have a negative effect on us.
So if you are feeling the call of Nature, then join us on one of our healing yoga and hiking retreats and take time to Pause….Breather and Reconnect.