Pain Relief That Doesn’t Come In A Bottle: Part One – Forest Bathing

People the world over have long known about the benefits of safe sunbathing and how exposing our skin to the sun for short periods of time creates essential Vitamin D. Spending time out of doors in nature has always been recognized as healthy. What many people may not know –especially those who suffer from chronic pain – is that immersing yourself in nature may help to relieve chronic pain.

While many people enjoy the benefits of sunbathing, the Japanese have long enjoyed forest bathing. It’s called “shinrin-yoku.” This is the very simple act of spending time in the forest connecting with the environment. 

The Japanese attribute the sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air with providing a sense of comfort. These sensations ease stress and worry, help us humans to relax and to think more clearly. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us. Of course, if you don’t have access to an actual forest, any green space and natural environment will do.

In 2009, Forest-therapy expert Yoshifumi Miyazaki published a paper that reviewed previous research on the physiological effects of shinrin-yoku. After analyzing evidence from field experiments conducted in 24 forests in Japan, he concluded that when compared to city settings, spending time in forest environments could:

•lower concentrations of cortisol

•lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure

•increase parasympathetic nerve activity (the relaxation response)

•lower sympathetic nerve activity (the fight-or-flight aka stress response)

Each of the results listed above directly contribute to the lessening of pain. Stay tuned for more pleasurable and pain-relieving activities that are free and can set you free from the life-draining habit of popping yet another pill.