Shinrin-yoku is very popular in Japan. Recently it has gained attention from all over the world. Shinrin-yoku is also called nature quest and it’s the phenomenon of completely blending yourself into nature. An increasing amount of people go into the wilderness to experience their green surroundings in a meditative way. Research has found that people living in a greener environment feel healthier, have less health related issues and visit the general practitioner less frequently. People living in the city on the other hand have a hyper alert brain that reacts more intense to stress, whereas people living in the countryside feel happier and healthier. So we know that being in nature is relaxing, but why is that?
Nature’s relaxing effect can be explained by chemistry. Phytoncides are micro substances that are excreted by plants and trees to protect themselves from bugs for example. These substances lower our stress, because the concentration of stress hormones in our blood decreases due to the phytoncides. They also activate our immune system. Natural killer cells, the antibodies that create white blood cells, increase when we are exposed to concentrations of phytoncides that are similar to the ones found in forests.
Nature is also home to the soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae. This is a bacteria we humans used to evolve with back in the days. This bacteria activates neurons that are related to your immune system and causes serotonin to be released in your brain. Serotonin is a hormone that makes you feel relaxed and happy.
The soothing effect of nature is also caused by multiple incoming sensory signals. A beautiful scenery, gentle sounds and a nice scent contribute to relaxation. Research has found that just the sight of flowers can already have a relaxing effect. Also, the scent of roses can make you feel more relaxed. Nowadays, you can find hours of videos on the internet that use sounds from nature. Think of the sound of rain, whistling birds or the sea. The repeating nature of those sounds has a calming effect and people tend to listen to it to sleep more relaxed for example.
Go on an adventure!
Going into nature can be an easy way to relieve some stress. Especially when you are living or working in a busy city, it can be a relieve to escape daily life every now and then. So get up and go for a hike in the woods, sign up for a nature quest or shinrin-yoku yourself into nature! The relaxing effect appears to be lineair, so the longer the experience the better!
Go for a long hike in the woods and register in the NiceDay app how you feel before, during and after the experience. Do you notice any differences?