Have you heard of the new lifestyle practice called Shinrin-Yoku? Translated into English as ‘forest bathing’ or ‘forest therapy’, Shinrin-Yoku was invented in Japan in the early 1980s. The practice was proposed by the government as a means to help people relax their minds and improve mental health.
Though the name includes the term bathing, Shinrin-Yoku mostly involves walking in a forested area. That’s it. There’s no specific intention required for the walk. All you have to do is to keep walking slowly while taking into the senses the environment around you, like the sights, smells and sounds.
Benefits Of Shinrin-Yoku
Forest bathing is said to offer a number of benefits ranging from reduced blood pressure to increased attention span in children with ADHD. Below, we look at five such benefits of Shinrin-Yoku.
Decreased Blood Pressure
If you have issues with varying blood pressure, then a little forest bathing is what you need. It has been discovered that just looking at trees for a few moments has a positive effect on a person’s health, helping them calm down and lower blood pressure.
In addition, the two stress-related hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, are observed to reduce from such activities. Frequent trips to forested areas also minimize a person’s state of confusion, depression, and anxiety.
Boost Immune System
As protection from insects, plants emit a chemical called phytoncides, which has antifungal and antibacterial properties. In a densely forested region, the environment will be permeated by these. As such, if you pass through such a space or spend a good deal of time there, you will inhale these chemicals.
As a reaction, the body will start producing a certain kind of white blood cells, called the Natural killer (NK) cells, which has the ability to kill viruses and cancer infected cells in your body. It is estimated that just 2 nights of Shinrin-Yoku is sufficient for about 30 days of increased NK activity in the body.
If you are recovering from an illness, then a short walk in a forested region can definitely do some good. People in a hospital usually suffer from multiple emotional issues including fear, stress, anxiety, and so on.
This can slow down the recovery process. Just having a green view of the outside is sufficient enough to cause fewer postsurgical complications, while lowering the reliance on painkillers. And if you are capable of going out to a nearby park, then all the better.
Children With ADHD
Another group that can significantly benefit from Shinrin-Yoku are children who suffer from issues like ADHD and similar problems. Usually, such children have very low attention spans and are unable to learn anything properly.
However, spending time amidst natural greenery has been seen to mitigate such issues to a good extent. As such, forest bathing should definitely be on your to-do list if you have a child with ADHD.
Have you ever felt stuck in life, unable to ignite creativity? If yes, forest bathing is highly recommended. This activity is said to free up mind, and open it up to newer possibilities. As such, you might suddenly get a spark of inspiration right in the middle of a trail.
Plus, the reduced stress levels also help in clearing the mind from unwanted thoughts, allowing creative ideas to come forth more easily, as well as negative thoughts to flow out.
Many research reports have come out that validate the benefits offered by Shinrin-Yoku. A 2010 study conducted in the Chiba Prefecture in Japan enlisted a few test subjects, asking them to walk 20 minutes in a forest park.
The researchers found that the subjects had experienced lower stress levels when they were in the forest. In addition, their hemoglobin count was also lower. The forest mainly consisted of Oak trees.
Another study published in 2011 looked at the effects of forest bathing on the human body. They compared the results of walking in a city and walking in a forest and found that the latter helped reduce blood pressure to a good extent.
In addition, dopamine levels were also observed to have decreased from forest bathing.
Tips To Keep In Mind When Doing Shinrin-Yoku
There are no strict rules for practicing Shinrin-Yoku. After all, the only thing you have to do is to enter a forest and walk through it. However, if you follow the tips below, then you will definitely have a better experience.
- Remember that this is not a hike. You don’t have to walk fast towards some goal. There is no goal. Just relax and walk anywhere you want. Use all your senses while walking through the forest, whether it is sight, smell, touch, or hearing.
- Do not take your smartphone, camera, or any other such devices with you for the walk. Leave all gadgets behind. Since the goal of the walk is to concentrate on yourself and the environment, these devices act as an unnecessary distraction.
- If you are going in a group, keep conversations to a minimum. Better still, don’t talk at all. At least for the few minutes, you spend for the walk, remain silent and learn to savor the silence. And then after you’re done with the walk, you can consider talking to the other members of the group.
- If you find a location to sit for a few minutes, then go for it. Close your eyes and meditate with deep breaths. Similarly, if something gets your attention, stop and watch it closely until you are satisfied with it. Remember – there is no hurry.
- Take your most comfortable shoes for the Shinrin-Yoku. It should not be too light that pebbles and other rocks discomfort your feet. Nor should it have too thick a base that the entire shoe feels heavy.
So, if you have been feeling mentally stressed out lately, try to take some time off from work and head over to the nearest forest for a few hours. Walkthrough the trees, absorbing the fresh air, feeling everything around you, and you will definitely feel refreshed and more energetic.
If you are not sure whether you can do the Shinrin-Yoku properly by yourself, consider getting in contact with a forest bathing guide, and they will definitely help you get the best experience from the walk.
The Good Side of The COVID Crisis
I know you must be feeling skeptical about this; I mean, what can be good about anything that has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought the world to a halt?
But there are some silver linings and corners of positivity in this whole scenario. Here we will list out all the good things that have happened or are happening right now due to the crisis we are facing!
Nature is Thriving
With less human activity and reduced water traffic, the waters in the canals of Venice are becoming clearer by the day. Fleets of white swan were spotted in the waters, a rare visitor over the last several years.
In Mumbai’s Marine Drive, schools of dolphins were seen playing around, as the ports were closed, and barely any water traffic and pollution were there to keep them away. Unusual sightings of dolphins have also been reported from the ports of Cagliari, Sardinia. Devoid of ships, as seen on a typical busy day, the marine lives thrive and have relief in the peaceful, calm, human-less waters!
Herds of deer were seen roaming around in Japan’s streets. With no crowds or traffic, the animals were seen having a gala time exploring the usually busy and bustling city streets.
More than 70,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles were seen nesting on an empty beach in Odisha, located along the eastern coast of India. These beaches, usually abuzz with human activity in the tourist seasons, were deserted because of the nation-wide lockdown in place, and thus left at peace for these turtles. While in Brazil, 97 Hawksbill sea turtles, a critically endangered species, hatched on a deserted beach. Moreover, a similar occurrence has been reported in Florida, where a high number of Leatherback turtles have surfaced on the shores.
In Canada, orcas have been spotted swimming further into regions where they were not seen venturing before. In fact, dolphins, seals, and other marine animals have been spotted in areas where they have not been seen for decades!
In Llandudno, North Wales, usually shy mountain goats came down from the higher altitudes and were seen freely roaming the streets of the town. Meanwhile, wild boars were seen exploring Barcelona’s city streets, an incredible sight in the bustling and one of the busiest parts of Spain.
In San Francisco, packs of coyotes were sighted roaming on the streets, whereas in Nara Japan, Sika deer were seen exploring empty streets and subway stations.
In South Africa, wild penguins were spotted roaming the streets, and in Argentina, sea lions were seen chilling out near storefronts!
With less number of vehicles, shutting down of factories and industries, the air has become cleaner in unprecedented ways. Recently, residents in Jalandhar, India, were able to see the Himalayas’ Dhauladhar range from their houses due to cleaner air.
Moreover, Delhi, the country’s capital and one of the most polluted metros on Earth, recorded good air quality index levels for the first time in several years. Other big cities like New York, São Paulo, London, Bogota, and others have also recorded better air quality due to lower pollution levels.
In Italy, air pollution levels have dropped by 40%, whereas China has also seen a dramatic drop in its pollution levels. According to NASA, the nitrogen dioxide levels in busy cities of China have dropped by 10-30%. The current crisis is also leading to the largest ever decline in annual carbon emission levels. This has led to some reversal of greenhouse effects caused by human activities in recent years.
Adults and children are all locked inside homes due to the forceful timeout created by the virus. Although it leads to occasional struggles, overall, it has given people a chance to reconnect better with their families.
We have been consumed so much by our busy lives and technology craving habits, that our family ties and socialization had taken a back seat over the years. The pandemic has given all of us the time to connect with our friends, families, and dear ones.
From doing household chores to bringing down forgotten board games, families are bonding in all kinds of wonderful ways.
For the first time in life, we as a generation are facing a common enemy. Everyone around the globe has never been united like this with such a singular yet massive cause.
The love, support, and prayers for each other across communities have brought a remarkable sense of unity and keeps reminding everyone in the crisis that we are in this together!
Now is the time when you can finally focus on yourself. From learning new skills to completing courses, reading, writing, or simply enjoying me-time, or indulging in your long-forgotten hobbies, the quarantine can be your long path of self-discovery!
This crisis has brought out some of the best of people into the frontline. From doctors and nurses striving daily, there have been thousands of volunteers worldwide who are helping vulnerable people with food, money, sanitization, and other necessities.
Many people have come forward to feed and care for strays and animals going without food after being abandoned by their humans or running out of their daily source of meals due to closed shops, fewer people, and empty roads.
It is a tough time where everything seems uncertain. But you have to search for positivity and keep your hopes up. Believe that there is a light even in the darkest corners.
Keep adding more such good things happening around the world, in nature, and amongst people. Look at the silver lining, keep hoping, stay positive, and spread that positivity all around you every day. Finally let me finish off with a wonderful quote that Buddha said,
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so let us all be thankful.”
7 Simple Ways Traveling Can Help Improve Mental Wellness
7 Simple Ways Traveling Can Help Improve Mental Wellness
Do you feel as if you are stuck in a rut?
From family to work issues, daily chores, illnesses, maintaining your home, and a hundred different concerns, the daily grind could sometimes take a toll on your well-being.
Having a change of scenery or taking a vacation can already do wonders for your mental health. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that traveling provides several benefits to your mental health.
Taking a trip could change your life for the better. In this post, we will talk about the seven simple ways of how traveling can improve your mental health:
1. You’ll discover more about yourself
Traveling helps you re-assess and re-invent your life. It helps you boost your thinking in a way that you never thought of.
Overcoming the challenges that come with traveling brings about a feeling of independence and a sense of control in your life. For instance, choosing which luggage brands to purchase from.
Going out of your comfort zone helps you build resilience, which allows you to learn how to cope with different situations.
Moreover, traveling and achieving these goals can make the day-to-day stuff back home easier to handle. Spending the time to fend for yourself while traveling, like bargaining in a local market or catching public transportation in a foreign country, could also lead to positive personal outcomes that build up your confidence.
Not to mention that it improves your overall life satisfaction.
2. It helps you increase creativity
According to Adam Galinsky from Colombia Business School, a key to increasing your creativity is to immerse and engage yourself in the local culture.
This open-mindedness helps you embrace various situations and could even influence your outlook in life. Moreover, because creativity is directly linked to neuroplasticity (or the brain’s ability to form new neural connections) it means that our brains are often sensitive to change.
New environments and experiences could influence creativity. Having your own creative outlet is one of the best ways to practice mindfulness. Also, the more you’re able to put this into good use, the better.
Immersing yourself in unfamiliar sights and sounds when traveling boosts your creativity.
3. You’ll be familiarized about other cultures
Traveling allows you to navigate, communicate with others, and to learn about different cultures.
Whether you are asking for directions in a foreign country while bringing your luggage, meeting new people and new friends, or immersing yourself in new cultural experiences, you will learn more about the world as you try to get around.
4. Makes you mentally resilient
Traveling and living somewhere exciting yet intimidating at the same time could toughen you up mentally and emotionally.
When you face challenges in an unfamiliar environment, it forces you to learn and adapt to something that is beyond your comfort zone. This helps you be more flexible on things and emotionally strong.
Delayed or canceled flights, and last minutes plans? Traveling helps you deal with bigger issues in life, with more patience and grace.
5. It gives you a change of scenery
If you have been struggling to find motivation at work lately or just ended a tough relationship, hitting the pause button and going somewhere is one of the best ways to restore yourself.
Although staying in a familiar place could bring a sense of comfort to others, it could also make you physically and mentally trapped.
Changing your daily routine and going somewhere will help stimulate your mind, improve your overall happiness levels, and could make you feel as if you are doing something worthwhile with your time.
6. It disconnects you from daily stress
As mentioned previously, many people travel because they want to break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Traveling helps you rejuvenate, destress, and recharge. That way, when you’re back from your holiday, you can put forward more great ideas and lots of enthusiasm.
Traveling also helps you take off your mind from stressful situations, leading to more cortisol levels, and making you feel more calm and content. It also helps you focus on the present moment.
Having a list of fun and exciting activities can add novelty and change in the form of new sights, sounds, and experiences.
7. Traveling increases happiness
Booking accommodation, finding the perfect travel destination, and packing your bags are proven to make you happy.
In fact, a study conducted by Cornell University found out that the process of planning and anticipating a trip increases happiness levels more than the process of obtaining new material possessions such as a new car or clothes.
The time to relax and do what you want on your trip significantly reduces your stress and increases your overall happiness as well.
So there you have it. After you have read about the wonderful things traveling does to your mental health, it is time to do your research and plan your next trip!
4 Benefits of Doing Yoga Regularly
Yoga is an excellent place to start a healthy lifestyle if your life has been quite a bit sedentary for some time. Even with health conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis, you can safely practice Yoga. With multiple types and forms of Yoga to choose from, you have the freedom to practice whatever suits you. Regular Yoga can help you become more robust and flexible by making it easier for you to do other exercises like dancing, walking, or swimming.
Moreover, it is also a great way to stay energetic and flexible. Your general alertness increases, and there is also a profound positive impact on mental health with Yoga.
With regular practice, you will gradually notice overall well-being and a deep sense of inner peace. Yoga frees you of all the worry, stress, anxiety that bogs you down and lets you proceed towards a more holistic and spiritually fulfilling self-development.
Let’s take a look at four of the obvious benefits that come from practicing Yoga.
- Improves poor blood circulation
- Reduces high blood pressure
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Reduces body-wide inflammation, contributing to healthier hearts
- Improves mobility in people with lower back pain
- Reduces risk for injury
- Allows better coping with arthritis
- Can slow down the advent of osteoporosis
- Improves the condition of people with limited mobility
- Reduces headaches
- Helps you to have better control over tension or stress
- Reduces anxiety levels and depression
- Can help you get better sleep, improves insomnia
- Relaxes your body
- Increases overall mental and physical stability
- Improves breathing patterns
- Increases lung capacity
- Improves lung output and pulse rates
- Helps people with asthma, to control definitive symptoms
Yoga is an excellent way to heal your body, both physically and mentally. It allows you to have the perfect blend of de-stressing and exercise in a simple yet effective way.
A healthy body makes a healthy mind. Regular Yoga can help you achieve health and fitness. Moreover, daily practice brings in more discipline to your everyday life. Especially during these testing times of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we are all trapped in our homes, a regular fitness regime that is easy to follow is especially necessary.
The best part is that Yoga is trendy, and you can always find guidelines for the correct postures. With many materials and videos available online, you can start your fulfilling Yoga journey any moment you wish. So what’s stopping you today?
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