Enveloping our lives in the forms of nature can be transformative. The Forest Agency of Japan coined the term “shinrin-yoku” or “forest bathing”. It is the practice of getting into the woods for body and mind renewal, to counter lifestyle related health issues.
Since then, a growing body of research shows that spending time in the mountains – hiking through the forest, observing plant and animal life, or even playing in water features – can improve your physical health while reducing stress and anxiety.
Nature has a way of enhancing our senses. The sounds of that distant bird chirping out its song set, the stride of the wind rushing through the trees. The sound of our soles crushing the trail! We see the sea of green in shades. The vastness of nature; the emptiness and fullness in duality. The details in the mountain scape, the trail terrain, the unusual formations of nature.
Let’s not for get the smell of fresh, crisp mountain air. The combined smells of leaves and grasses decaying into the earth or the oils emanating from trees releasing pure natural scents. Take a sprig of sage and crush it in your fingers and breath it in. Tell me that’s not one of the best smells ever! There is a stillness, calmness and a sense of serenity out in nature. There is a feeling of being alive that we don’t get from our urban life. What is it about nature that makes us feel good? What is that feeling? Why does nature heal, sooth and restore the mind and body?
Vis medicatrix naturae means “the healing power of nature” which was established by Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Practitioners of Hippocratic Medicine followed certain principles, one of which, is that organisms left alone can heal themselves. Organisms are not passive to injuries or disease and, instead, rebalances themselves to counteract ailments. The body has the ability to heal itself. Nature is the best physician.
Recent studies have linked nature to symptom relief for stress and anxiety, keeping the heart rate variability normal, lowering blood pressure, improving mood and sleep disorders, easing symptoms of ADHD, helping recovering addicts or current addictions, boosting self esteem and relieving depression.
Consider this, there are invisible chemicals, called phytoncides, (basically pungent essential oils) in some trees that can reduce stress hormones, lower anxiety, and improve blood pressure and immunity. Being outdoors provides you with the benefits of getting natural sunlight, which produces vital vitamin D. Being outside naturally stabilizes melatonin in the body, which is offset when you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen or mobile device
Blood tests revealed a host of protective physiological factors released at a higher level after forest walks according to a review paper in Frontiers of Psychology. Among these hormones and molecules, a research team at Japan’s Nippon Medical school ticks off dehydroepiandrosterone which helps to protect against heart disease, obesity and diabetes, as well as, adiponectin, which helps to guard against atherosclerosis.
In other research, the team found elevated levels of the immune systems natural killer cells, known to have anti-cancer and anti-viral effects. Meanwhile, research from China found that those walking in nature had reduced blood levels of inflammatory cytokines, a risk factor for immune illness, and research from Japan’s Hokkaido University School of Medicine found lowered blood glucose levels associated with obesity and diabetes.
Basically, we all need to Get Outside.
Studies show that just three days and two nights in a wooded place increase the immune system functions that boost feelings of well being for up to seven days.* (aeon.co) Human response includes increased awe, greater relaxation, restored attention, and boosted vitality. Health outcomes are astounding: enhanced immunity, including reduced cardiovascular disease, fewer migraines, and lowered anxiety, to name a few.
Even short nature breaks an be beneficial. According to a recent small study, people who spent just 20 minutes in nature experienced a drop in stress hormones. Looking at a stunning waterfall or undulating countryside can do more than enrich your Instagram feed: it can also elicit feelings of awe that bring a number of health benefits. Feelings of awe will even make people more kind.
“Experiences of awe attune people to things larger than themselves,” says Paul Piff researcher at University of California, Irvine. “They cause individuals to feel less entitled, less selfish, and to behave in more generous and helping ways.” The benefits of awe are physical too: regularly experiencing moments of awe has been linked to lower levels of inflammatory compounds in the body.
Being with the llamas is spiritual for me. They are so alert and gentle; focused and cautious. The group interaction is amazingly impactful as the entire experience brings people together with a sense of purpose and harmony. Dennis, your approach and that of your guides, is without judgment for skill level and very in tune to each participant’s needs. Experience of a lifetime! Can’t wait to go again!Peg M. Cody, WY
“If everyone were to make time for nature, the savings on health care costs could be incredible,” says study author Danielle Shanahan, a research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia.
“Nature is undemanding,” says Shanahan. “It requires effortless attention to look at the leaves of a tree, unlike the constant emails at work or the chores at home.”
For many people suffering from physical or emotional ailments, the best medicine isn’t found In a pill bottle, but rather in the forest, in the wilds of a trail, on the top of the mountain.
What we know is that we feel good out there, a notion firmly supported by science and supported by our senses.
Get Outside. Go for a hike.
The best remedy for life health challenges, both mental and physical, is to Go For A Hike. Even if it’s a short one. It will do you and everyone around you good.
Now we’ve found that nature is great therapy for mind, body and soul. Couple nature with the soothing and comforting effects that animals provide for our spirit and you have the perfect Wellness Recipe.
Join us as we explore the Power of Nature with our Wilderness Wellness Llama Treks in Yellowstone National Park or our Montana Alpine Lakes Basecamp.
See you on the trail.