Most of us instinctively know that taking a walk in a forest is good for us. We take a break from the rush of our daily lives. We enjoy the beauty and peace of being in a natural setting. Now, research is showing that visiting a forest has real, quantifiable health benefits, both mental and physical. Even five minutes around trees or in green spaces may improve our health.
Numerous studies in the U.S. and around the world are exploring the health benefits of spending time outside in nature, green spaces, and, specifically, forests. People in Japan have coined a term for it: “shinrin-yoku.” It means taking in the forest atmosphere or "forest bathing." And there’s no more beautiful time to do just that than October, when leaves turn and temperatures are moderate.
Numerous studies show that both exercising in forests and simply sitting looking at the trees reduce blood pressure as well as the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Looking at pictures of trees has a similar, but less dramatic, effect. Studies examining the same activities in urban, unplanted areas showed no reduction of stress-related effects. Using the Profile of Mood States test, researchers found that forest-bathing trips significantly decreased the scores for anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue. And because stress inhibits the immune system, the stress-reduction benefits of forests are further magnified.
Our lives are busier than ever with jobs, school, and family life. Trying to focus on many activities or even a single thing for long periods of time can mentally drain us. Spending time in nature, looking at plants, water, birds and other aspects of the natural world, gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break, allowing us to better focus when we return to the tasks at hand.
Source: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation