Now That You Have a Healthy Landscape
The final step for cultivating a healthy and safe landscape: spend time in it! The only true way to reap the benefits of your newly designed outdoor safe haven is to get outside and soak up all the health.
To recap, in case you missed the earlier parts of our series on How to Make Your Landscape Safer & Healthier:
Now that you have a toxin-free, organic landscape teeming with biodiversity and layered (mostly-native) plantings that create habitat and effectively manage storm water, AND an at-reach organic food garden… your natural oasis is ready for immersion!
Spending Time Outside (Forest Bathing) is Good for your Health
“Fresh air will do you good” has long been adage in our culture connecting the outdoors with improved health.
Even in the 19th Century, doctors were prescribing time outdoors for the sick and fatigued. Sanitariums popped up all over alpine Europe where ill urban dwellers retreated to natural springs and took therapeutic walks through the surrounding landscape.
In the 1980s, Japan pioneered the concept of Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing,” quantifying the health benefits of spending time in forests or green spaces. It is now part of their national health program. Forest bathing is intentional, meditative time spent in the forest or among greenery.
Japan’s research on the topic has yielded remarkable results, linking forest bathing to:
- Improved immune function via an increased production of natural killer (NK) cells which target cancerous or virus-infected cells, as well an increased expression of anti-cancer proteins.
- Reducing stress hormones including cortisol, adrenaline and nonadrenaline
- Lower blood pressure, lower pulse, and greater parasympathetic nerve activity – Lower blood pressure is linked to cardiac health, and the parasympathetic nervous system controls “feed and breed” activities such as digestion, salivation and sexual arousal.
- Improved cognitive function, attention span, memory and energy levels
- Decreased blood glucose levels in diabetic patients
- Reduced feelings of anxiety, depression, anger and confusion
- Improved concentration and focus among ADHD patients
- Enhanced Mood – essential oils (terpenes) released by trees are a natural aromatherapy and have been linked to improved mood, energy and reduced stress
Many of these health effects have been linked to our inhalation of phytonicides – chemical compounds produced and released by trees to protect themselves from pathogens, insects and other threats. When we inhale phytonicides in the forest, park or a garden, we benefit from their immune defense antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Forest Bathing: Are You Doing it Right?
Trees release the most phytonicides, but all plants produce the compounds in some form. Therefore, you can reap the benefits of Shinrin-Yoku by spending time in a park, garden, forest, or any green space.
The Japanese tradition emphasizes the meditative nature of time spent in the forest or green space. Leave your phone and any distractions at home, and fully immerse yourself in the sounds, smells, feels and sights of the natural world. Focus on your breath. It is not so much about physical exercise, although you may prefer to walk through the landscape. Forest bathing is about releasing tension, expanding the senses, and allowing the inherent therapeutics of nature to soothe you.
‘Earthing’ Maximizes Time Outdoors for Human Health
We’ve already discussed in Part One of the series the benefits of soil microbes on human health, and how simply getting your hands in the dirt is a great way to become reacquainted with essential soil microbes.
Earthing introduces a new theory about the benefits of direct contact with the Earth. Earthing posits that only recently in human history did we become so disconnected with Earth’s surface, via time spent indoors (90% of the average American’s life is spent inside) and the physical separation from the ground via our shoes. Earthing promotes a literal reconnection to the Earth by walking barefoot, sitting in the grass, or playing in the dirt.
Earth has a natural magnetic field and electricians have long-since learned the importance of grounding wires to disperse electrical charge. Earthing suggests that the human body also benefits from this electron exchange and neutralization of charge.
Studies have linked Earthing to a reduction in inflammation, because “grounding the body allows negatively charged antioxidant electrons from the Earth to enter the body and neutralize positively charged free radicals at sites of inflammation.” Free radicals are thought of as the “hallmarks of chronic inflammation.”
Another study linked earthing to reduced blood viscosity, which is known to improve cardiovascular function. Research also suggests that Earthing leads to a reduction in stress, demonstrated by a shift to the parasympathetic nervous system, heart rate stabilization, normalized muscle tension, and a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol.
Additional Earthing benefits include improved sleep and faster recovery from pain or soreness.
Your Landscape, Your Health
In conclusion, the stunning health benefits of spending time directly in contact with nature can no longer be ignored. Especially when you have a diverse, organic, and healthy yard right outside your door!
Be kind to yourself and try to carve out an hour or two each day that can be spent in your landscape, or any natural setting you have access to. Your mental health, sleep, physiology and immune system will thank you!
Contact us to start developing your healthy landscape! 914-560-6570
We proudly service Westchester County and Putnam County, NY and Fairfield County, CT