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Complementary Corner

Go outside and be!

Renee Lehman

(8/2017) It is summer! Oh, the longer, warmer days. There is so much more time to be outside at picnics, festivals, enjoying friends and family. Itís even a time to be more playful and lighthearted! Have you taken the time to enjoy the gifts of Summer?

If your answer is YES! Wonderful! Keep enjoying the gifts of Summer!

If your answer is NO, what are you waiting for? Get outside, spend time in nature, and play! There is so much benefit to your body/mind/spirit by spending time outside. What benefits you ask?

Would you be interested in FREE outdoor activities that boosted immune system functioning; reduced blood pressure; reduced stress; improved mood, increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD; accelerated recovery from surgery or illness; increased energy level; and improved sleep?

Plus, added benefits of incorporating the following outdoor activities into part of your regular routine include: deeper and clearer intuition; increased flow of energy; increased capacity to communicate with the Earth and its species; deepening of friendships; and overall increase in sense of happiness!

Intrigued? What could these activities be?

First, have you heard of Forest Bathing? And second, when is the last time that you went outside and played?

Forest Bathing

In the 1854 essay Walden: Or, Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau prescribed time in nature for our civilization and its discontent. If you have ever taken a walk in the woods, you may have experienced an improvement in you overall feelings of well-being. Now thereís scientific evidence supporting the activity of walking in the woods.

Shinrin-yoku is a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." It was developed in Japan during the 1980s as a part of the national public health program, and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.

From 2004 to 2012, Japanese officials spent about $4 million dollars studying the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing. Qing Li, a professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, measured the activity of human natural killer (NK) cells in the immune system before and after exposure to the woods. These cells are associated with immune system health and cancer prevention. In a 2009 study Liís subjects showed significant increases in NK cell activity in the week after a forest visit, and positive effects lasted a month following each weekend in the woods.

This is due to various essential oils, generally called phytoncide, which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects. Forest air doesnít just feel fresher and betteróinhaling phytoncide seems to improve immune system function.

The physiological effects of forest bathing were also studied by the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences in Japanís Chiba University. The team measured the subjectsí salivary cortisol (which increases with stress), blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate variability during a day in the city and compared those to the same biometrics taken during a day with a 30-minute forest visit. "Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments," the study concluded. In other words, being in nature made subjects calmer and less prone to stress.

Trees soothe the spirit too. A study on forest bathingís psychological effects showed significantly reduced hostility and depression scores, coupled with increased liveliness, after exposure to trees.

Forest bathing, and other examples of nature experiences have roots in many cultures throughout the world. John Muir wrote, "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity."

 

Play

Our society tends to dismiss play when someone becomes an adult. Play is perceived as unproductive or even a guilty pleasure. But just because we reach adulthood, that doesnít mean that we must take ourselves so seriously and make life all about work. "The only kind (of play) we honor is competitive play," according to Bowen F. White, MD, author of Why Normal Isnít Healthy. Why is that? We ALL need to play.

For adults, play is an important source of relaxation and can fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being. Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best. In fact, the National Institute of Play (NIP), play is a gateway to vitality. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, "We donít stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." Play generates optimism, makes perseverance fun and leads to mastery. It boosts the immune system, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Who wouldnít want better connections, and more rewarding relationships?

By playing, you give yourself an opportunity to let go of work and other commitments. There doesnít need to be any point to the activity beyond having fun and enjoying yourself. Dance, throw a Frisbee with a friend, hang out on the beach, play with your dog or cat, play a board game with friends, go for a walk or bike ride with no destination in mind, or just sit and SMILE..

Sometimes we just need to have permission from someone to play and enjoy. Iím going to give you permission right now - "Put down the newspaper, and go outside! Take a Forest Bath or just Play!"

"Play is the highest form of research." - Albert Einstein

"Life must be lived as Play." - Plato

"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." - John Muir

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you." - Frank Lloyd Wright

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist and physical therapist with over 25 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA. She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman