Doctor Nature

The Japanese practice shirin-yoku, which translates into ” forest bathing”. A form of preventative medicine, 48 official “forest therapy” trails are managed by Japan’s Forest Agency. Within the next 10 years the goal is to increase that number to 100. It’s no secret that Japanese culture reveres nature; they just might be on to something.

Ponder this – In 2008 the world crossed a line; more people lived in urban environments than rural settings. Research indicates mankind has become more aggressive, self absorbed, depressed, distracted, fatter, and less able to rely on their cognitive abilities since the introduction of the internet. On average Americans are estimated to spend at least 8 hours a day looking at electronic screens.

Back to forest therapy; research shows that mother nature has some tricks up her sleeve. A group of Tokyo businessmen spent 3 days hiking in the woods. Blood tests showed their NK (white blood cell count, – important immune system and cancer fighters) was up by 40%, and after a month was still increased by 15%. The same group  tested after urban walks showed no increase in NK count. Even one day immersed in nature increased short term memory, dropped blood pressure, and led to an increased feeling of “well being”. Nay sayers can argue these benefits resulted from nothing more than simple stress release – fair enough, but explain the NK count.

Qing Li of the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo attributes it to phytoncides (scents) released by trees, in particular pines. Evergreens and other trees give off pinenes, limonenes, in total up to 100 “enes” to play with our minds. Science can’t explain it; at least not in any terms other than understanding that they stimulate our brains.

We can’t explain why Lemmings jump to their death, Sand Tiger sharks only give birth to 2 offspring because the bad ass couple ate the other embryos while still in the womb, or raccoons mate for life – and it doesn’t matter. Nature knows how to keep a delicate balance. People aren’t supposed to live without nature; sequestered in cities,  medicating themselves in desperate attempts to “feel better”.

Click on the link, read the story, then get off your city chair and smell a pine tree.

Photo: Michael Turek/Getty Images

11 thoughts on “Doctor Nature

  1. I am with you here…I do the same thing when I fly-fish…because I never catch anything and standing in the stream just makes me feel better. Now in western culture- if I stand in same stream without a flyrod people will think I’m nuts but i think it would do the same thing.

    • I get anxious if I can’t smell nature. Living in the city it’s easy to forget our connection. Then I take a trip home to the country and smell the scent of sagebrush after a rain, and all is right in the world. 🙂

  2. eight hours looking at an electronic screen, well that explains why I am so far behind in my yard work. As soon as I finish this mornings browsing and catch up on the news I am going out side and wrestle with some pine tree brush that had to be removed last night to repair the power line. Hopefully this will help me remember where I left my keys.

  3. Awesome, I usually try to get 3-6 months of living in the woods, usually out of a camper. I find that this time helps me realize whats important, meditate on life, the present, and many other things. I also come to most of my greater artistic/philosophical ideas in the woods. I am in the process of digitizing most of the work I did during my last stint in the woods which was my longest ~1 year. hope you like what I have to post up and I enjoy your blog! will definitely be spending more time exploring it and look forward to your upcoming posts!

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