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Any time of year is a good time for a good dose of Shinrin-yoku; but, I think, for maximum effect, autumn in Western New York is the best.
Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese term for forest therapy. That’s getting therapy by walking in the forest, not therapy for forests. People have been walking in the woods forever; but, I am told, since the 1980s, it’s become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers in Japan and South Korea have established what they call a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time in the company of trees.
I love hiking, so I’d like to believe that walking in the woods can lower your blood pressure, lift your spirits, make you breathe easier, and be less interested in filling your mouth with junk food, your veins with drugs, your lungs with smoke, and your gullet with alcohol. It’s cheaper than Prozac and has fewer side effects than Xanax. In fact, unless you get sprayed by a skunk, eaten by a bear, or a tree falls on you, I can’t think of any side effects at all. If you’re sad, anxious, or confused, taking a walk in the woods should be the first thing you do, before you call a therapist or get a prescription for pills. As a matter of fact, there are studies that support some of those claims. In one such research experiment, volunteers were taken for a walk in the woods, or, alternatively, down a city street. Measurements were taken. The ones who walked in the woods had lower heart rates and blood pressures, reduced stress hormone production, a boosted immune system, and improved overall feelings of wellbeing.
I’ve looked at these articles, but they only cause me to have more questions. Continue reading