May The Forest Bathe With You (Biohacking Shinrin-Yoku)

Forest Bathing's Magical Healing Properties Explained

 
 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5114301/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5114301/

 

Have you ever wondered why you feel so good outdoors?

I know when I go out on hikes, it feels almost as if there is some kind of magic to being outdoors - I get invigorated, happy, and I just feel alive. 

Well, there are profound biological effects to being outside.

There is a practice of going outside has been thoroughly investigated and given the name “Shinrin-Yoku” in Japan, aka “Forest Bathing”.

In this post, we’re going to discuss Forest Bathing’s scientifically proven benefits, what really is going on from being in nature, and what you can do to biohack its effects (without having to go outside). 😉

By the way, here's my video of me forest bathing while hiking

Contents:

  1. Basics
  2. Benefits Of Forest Bathing
  3. The Magic Of Shinrin Yoku Explained
  4. Biohacking Shinrin Yoku
  5. Caveats
  6. Mechanism Of Action
  7. More Research
  8. Video

Basics

Shinrin-Yoku (SY), also known as Forest Bathing (FB), is a form of Nature Therapy (NT) and is a traditional Japanese practice of immersing oneself in nature by mindfully using all five senses. R

It gained popularity in the 1980's as a part of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. R

It is commonly referred to as “forest recreation” in the United States and "Kneipp therapy" in Germany. R R

Benefits Of Forest Bathing

1. Improves Mood And Reduces Stress

 
happy forest
 

Shinrin Yoku (SY) can improve mood, vigor, energy, and overall health, and those who often forest bathe (FB) claim having an increased sense of meaning/purpose in life. R R

For example, in participants that normally FB, they report an increased quality of life. R 

Being connected to nature in general is highly associated with better mental well-being. R R

Living in an urban area has is often reported to increase stress levels, while FB has shown to reduce stress levels. R

For example, in busy workers, nature contact decreased overall stress levels and general health complaints. R

Those who forest bathe report having better vigor and vitality vs than those who don't. R

FB has also shown to increase spirituality (in cancer patients as well). R R

2. Helps With Anxiety And Depression

Forest bathing has shown significantly reduce chronic widespread pain and depression. R R

Simply walking around a garden has shown to help with depression in the elderly. R

It can reduce levels of cortisol, heart rate, blood pressure and improve heart rate variability (HRV), as well as improve parasympathetic nerve activity and lower sympathetic nerve activity. R R

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) performed in nature has significantly better results on anxiety and depression vs when done in the hospital or office. R

Exercise while forest bathing has shown to decreased pain more effectively than solely forest bathing (FB is still effective at reducing pain alone). R

Japanese students who walked 15-min in an urban park during the autumn season had decreased stress and heart rates. R

FB reduces anxiety levels. R

For example, FB has shown reduce depression and anxiety symptoms in patients with chronic stroke. R

Biologically, FB reduces depression, fatigue, anxiety, and confusion by reducing adrenaline, noradrenaline (NE) and dopamine (DA), and increasing adiponectin. R 

3. Improves Cognitive Function

FB increases oxygenation to the brain (oxyhemoglobin to the pre-frontal cortex). R

Just being in nature can improve focus and cognition. R R R

Exercising in nature also enhances cognitive function better than exercising inside. R

4. Combats Insomnia

 
sleep outside
 

Forest walking has shown to improve nocturnal sleep conditions for individuals with sleep complaints. R

Taking a lunch-time forest walk has shown to improve sleep at night. R

5. Improves The Vascular System

FB may improve the vascular system and fight heart disease. R R

For example, walking in a park has shown to have greater positive effects on cardiac function in patients with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) vs walking in an urban environment. R

As said above, FB has shown to consistently reduce heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and improve heart rate variability (HRV). R R R

It has shown to be beneficial in those with Chronic Heart Failure (CHF). R

One reason for this is that FB reduces the receptor activities of endothelin-1 (ET-1), angiotensinogen (AGT), angiotensin II (ANGII), thus helping improve blood flow. R R

6. Improves The Skin And Respiratory System

Forest bathing has therapeutic effects in children with asthma and atopic dermatitis (eczema). R

One reason for this may be that airborne mold is significantly lower outdoors (depending where you go). R

7. Combats Diabetes

Simply walking in the forest has shown to reduce blood glucose levels in Type 2 diabetic patients. R

8. Improves The Immune System

FB can improve the immune system by decreasing the levels of inflammatory markers in the body, such as malondialdehyde (MDA), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). R

9. Protects Against Cancer

Shinrin Yoku can enhance the number natural killer cells (NK cells), which play a major role in the host-rejection of both tumors and virally infected cells. R R

The Magic Of Shinrin Yoku Explained

So what's actually going on here?

While disregarding all the biological benefits the sunblue light's benefits on mental energy, how ingested microbes affect mood, and the effects of cells being exposed to EMFs, Shinrin Yoku's benefits boil down to a few important factors.

Green Exposure

 
 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4500194/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4500194/

 

There is a lot of exposure to green wavelegnths in nature. R

Green has been associated a plethora of benefits, such as improving physical activity, decreasing obesity, enhancing mental health, influencing better birth outcomes, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, and decreasing overall mortality. R R R R R R

People living and interacting in green spaces normally report of having more energy, better overall health, and a sense of meaning/purpose in life. R

Psychologically and spiritually speaking, humans intuitively know the relaxing, soothing and “awe” effects of being in or viewing forests, plants, flowers, urban green spaces, parks and natural wooden materials. R R

When green hits the:

  • Body: When wavelengths of green hits the body, it has shown to reduce pain by increasing enkephalins (natural opioid) expression. R
  • Eye: Just viewing green or nature (without other senses) can increase produce the psychological benefits of FB, such as increased mood. R R R R

Terpenes 

Terpenes (commonly found in essential oils) are known for having various biological effects. R R

They are naturally produced by plants (most commonly conifers) as a defense mechanism against herbivores and to help with growth. R R R

Terepenes have strong biological effects, such as:

This is why studies have shown that when people are exposed to real vs. artificial plants, the results of those exposed to real-nature objects have stronger benefits to health. R

Microbes

Forest soils are incredibly rich sources of microbial diversity and these microbes are readily dispersed in the air. R R R R

Just like mold can interact with the nasal cavity and influence activity of the brain (hypothalamus/hippocampus) as seen in diseases like Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), microbes in the air can effect the body and immune system via nasal inhalation. R R R

Microbes can also exert their effects on the central nervous system and immune system via contact with skin. R R

Ions

Negatively charged ions are found in higher concentrations in natural environments. R R R R R

Negative ions have shown to improve mood and reduce inflammation. R R

These major factors (green, terpenes, microbes, and ions) allow the body to naturally heal itself and go into a beneficial reflexive state. R R

Biohacking Shinrin Yoku

Go outside.

Really, just a few minutes to an hour in green areas has shown to have this benefit.

Positive effects (such as those on HRV) are evident within minutes of forest immersion and can improve individuals of all ages. R R

Phytoncides (terpene) levels, airborne microbes, and negative ions levels are all higher in the morning, so if you are limited in time, going out in the morning would have the most benefits. R R R R

If you can't go outside let's take into account the effects of green, terpenes, and negative ions:

Caveats

Not every study has found natural environments to be associated with positive health outcomes. R R

While viewing green can increase blood flow in the brain (prefrontal cortex), touching wood has the opposite effects (not necessarily a negative). R

In general, being outside predisposes you to a greater exposure to predators and allergens. R

Forest Bathing's effects on mood seem to have greater effects on those who are already depressed (such as seen with alcoholics). R

Also, the physiological effects of forest bathing may affect type A and type B personalities differently. R

Mechanism Of Action

Simple:

  • Increases Adiponectin R
  • Increases alpha-Amylase R
  • Increases DHEA-S R
  • Increases Granulysin R
  • Increases HRV R
  • Increases NK cells R
  • Increases Perforin R
  • Reduces Adrenaline R
  • Reduces AGT R
  • Reduces ANGII R
  • Reduces Blood Pressure R
  • Reduces CCL17 R
  • Reduces CCL22 R
  • Reduces Cortisol R
  • Reduces DA R
  • Reduces ET-1 R R
  • Reduces IL-6 R
  • Reduces MDA R
  • Reduces NE R
  • Reduces NT-proBNP R
  • Reduces TNF-alpha R

Advanced:

  • FB increased natural killer (NK), perforin, granulysin, and granzymes A/B-expressing cells. R
  • It reduces urinary N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP), noradrenaline (NE) and dopamine (DA) levels and significantly increased serum adiponectin and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) levels R

More Research

  • Viewing Kiwi fruits (and plants) reduces anxiety, increases "comfortable", "relaxed" and "natural" feelings and significantly improvement mood states. R