In 1982 the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term shinrin-yoku. This term can be defined as “making contact with the forest” or “taking up the atmosphere of the forest” or “forest bathing.”
Forty years later, Shinrin-yoku continues to be a part of Japan’s national health program.
In 2018 NHS Shetland, a government-run hospital in Scotland, began allowing certain physicians to write nature prescriptions. These prescriptions allowed for outside activities to become part of a patient’s routine care.
This concept spread and physicians in many states are now writing prescriptions for patients to get outside and into nature. In 2017 Dr. Robert Zarr, a pediatrician in Washington, D.C., founded Park Rx America. He writes an average of 10 prescriptions a day for patients to go to a local park because of the health benefits.
Apparently there is a need for this because studies show most Americans spend 93 percent of their time indoors or in their vehicles. That means most Americans spend a mere 7 percent of their time outside. Countless research projects have proven how being outdoors is healthy for the whole person: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Here are a few examples as there are too many benefits to share in this brief column.
Studies show that a lack of vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis, cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Receiving enough of this essential vitamin is critical for bone growth, regulating the immune system and in helping to battle depression.
Deep breathing of fresh, clean air clears the lungs which creates more energy, reduces asthma symptoms and lowers blood pressure.
A few other benefits of being outside are improved vision, lowered blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and even reduced pain levels.
The Journal of Aging and Health shared a study of adults over 70-years old who were outdoors frequently. These people slept better, had fewer aches and pains, and enjoyed improved mobility. A dear friend of mine, Joanne, is now in her 80s and continues to ride her bike several hours a week. She does not need hearing aides and only uses reading glasses.
Another area in which the great outdoors is beneficial is socialization. In the “good old days,” farmers would help each other and in the evenings everyone sat outside on their front porch, visiting with their neighbors. In our generation, walking in a city park or exploring a forest trail allows us the opportunity to meet others who also enjoy God’s beautiful creation.
From what I learned, a person does not need to be physically active to receive the health benefits of the outdoors. Relaxing activities are considered healthy, such as a leisurely walk, gardening or sitting on a bench. The two main contributing factors are deeply breathing in fresh air and absorbing the sunlight’s vitamin D.
Some research has shown how bringing nature indoors can improve a person’s well-being. This includes house plants, miniature waterfalls and even paintings of nature scenes.
If you live in climates with more cloud cover do not despair. The sun’s light filters through the clouds as I personally have seen the results of this phenomena.
The most ideal times to be outside are early-to-mid mornings, and late afternoons to early evenings. These times allow us to absorb sunlight and fresh air without the sun’s hot rays beating down on us, or us breathing in hot, dry air. As always, remember to use appropriate sun protection.
What are your positive experiences in nature? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; I personally reply to each and every email.
Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award-winning poet. When not writing, or teaching workshops, she enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family. See crystallinn.com.