Have you ever noticed how taking a walk in a garden or camping under the trees makes you feel more calm and peaceful? Or maybe you’ve noticed that you feel more like yourself when surrounded by trees and greenery instead of the bustling greyness of city buildings. There’s actually a name for that phenomenon: Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.”
Shinrin-yoku is a type of holistic health and preventative healing practice founded in Japan. Interestingly, we as a society recognize that nature does help us feel better when we’re stressed or anxious. However, the actual declaration and acceptance of Shinrin-yoku didn’t occur until the 1980s. It’s scientifically proven to help with stress, sleep, and cognitive abilities, among many other things. The benefits are heightened for people in recovery whose addictions take a huge toll on their physical and mental health.
Benefits of Shinrin-yoku:
- Improved immune system
- Lower stress levels
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Better and faster illness recovery
- Improved sleep
- Better focus capacity
- Increased energy levels
- Overall happiness increase and mood improvement
The Science Behind It
Simply being surrounded by nature actually increases parasympathetic nervous system activity. That sounds complicated but it just takes a little physiology crash course. The parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and digest” system. It’s what regulates rest and energy conservation in your body. So increased activity in the parasympathetic nervous system regulates rest and energy more efficiently. Your nervous system takes a hard toll from the effects of addiction, so being able to improve it in recovery is important. This holistic health approach allows people to achieve calmness without medication, which is a key benefit for people in recovery.
Lower concentrations of cortisol are associated with spending time in nature. Cortisol is a stress hormone that releases when our body’s stress-response system gets triggered. Lower amounts of cortisol reduce the risk of anxiety and depression, which are disorders that many people who struggle with addiction face.
Phytoncides – Evergreen trees actually secrete chemicals called phytoncides. These chemicals have been linked with improvements in our immune systems by helping to increase the activity of natural killer cells, which help to fight cancer. (Read more in this case study)
Recovery in California
When people think of California, they generally picture sunshine, yellow sand beaches, and palm trees. Well, good news! California’s palm trees offer this Shinrin-yoku effect. You can be sitting on the beach or taking a stroll alongside the quieter stretches of PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, for you East Coast readers) and still absorb the benefits of Shinrin-yoku. Additionally, California is also home to many forests, mountain greenery, and preserved natural gardens, all of which are basically breeding grounds for the holistic health benefits of Shinrin-yoku.
Immersing yourself in these areas even for just an hour a week can boost your overall happiness. Your recovery will thank you. Read more about the benefits of recovery in California here.
This healing process can significantly benefit recovery. But the first step to getting there is reaching out for help. Call our staff for a free and confidential assessment if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction: 855-737-7363.