Can a walk through nature boost immunity and reduce stress?

People always wonder how it’s possible that I remain vibrantly healthy and happy while living in a gritty city like New York that is filled with congestion, cars, crime, pollution, and high stress around every corner.

It’s easy actually.

On a daily basis, I consciously connect with nature out in the NYC parks.

It gives me a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle, regulates my blood pressure, improves my cardiovascular health, heightens my awareness, boosts my immune system, and my mood. And, my dog loves it too!

I know you may be thinking, “that’s hogwash, ya darn hippie!”

But au contraire, cupcake (as my friend Craig likes to say).

It’s scientifically proven that when you connect with nature good things happen.

Here’s how I first discovered it.

When I dove into natural healing back in the 1990’s, I studied Macrobiotics which was a combination of Japanese, Chinese, and German medicine. That was when I initially learned about the Japanese healing practice called Shinrin-yoku, which loosely translates to “forest bathing.”[1]

To forest bathe, you would walk in nature and consciously connect your five senses to view the rich colors of the flora and fauna, feel the various textures of plants (even just touching tree bark or a single leaf as you pass), smelling the aromas of all the living things around you, and tasting some of the edibles.

When I walk in nature I always find a little something to nibble on. Here’s an example. Fresh mulberries picked in Central Park.

As It turns out, a daily walk in nature is highly medicinal, as well as magical.

When you immerse yourself and your senses in an area filled with trees (ideally a forest), it literally boosts your NK cells, and not just for one day – for an entire week!

Yep! It’s scientifically proven, so simmer down and let me share the facts.

“The concentrations of phytoncides in the forests were measured. The forest bathing trip significantly increased NK activity and the numbers of NK, perforin, granulysin, and granzymes A/B-expressing cells and significantly decreased the percentage of T cells, and the concentrations of adrenaline and noradrenaline in urine. The increased NK activity lasted for more than 7 days after the trip. Phytoncides, such as alpha-pinene and beta-pinene were detected in forest air. These findings indicate that a forest bathing trip also increased NK activity, number of NK cells, and levels of intracellular anti-cancer proteins in subjects, and that this effect lasted at least 7 days after the trip. Phytoncides released from trees and decreased stress hormone levels may partially contribute to the increased NK activity.”[2] 

With that knowledge in mind, wouldn’t it make sense to take cancer patients, people struggling with high blood pressure and poor immunity, or folks that are stressed out, for a walk in the woods?

Thankfully, people are being trained to do this type of work by the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy. That organization trains guides to take people into the forest to connect them with nature for some much needed natural healing.

“Forest Therapy is a practice that promotes healing and wellness through immersing oneself in the calming and restorative atmosphere of forests and other natural environments. The practice originated from the Japanese tradition of Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing” and has been backed by research to provide an array of health benefits. By reminding us that we are interconnected with nature and all living beings, Forest Therapy goes beyond physical benefits and stabilizes our mood and cognition.”[3]

I am clear that my daily walks in New York City’s Central Park, is one of the reasons why I feel so happy and healthy even though I live in an over-crowded, highly stressed-out city.

It’s also one of the reasons why I recommend getting out into nature to heal any and every condition and to feeling your best. Access to nature is absolutely vital to supporting a healing journey.

We know scientifically that forest bathing is medicinal, and now here’s the magical part.

When you connect with nature on a deeper level, it connects you to the entire universe. Here’s what naturalist and father of the National Parks, John Muir, had to say about being outside in nature:

“When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.”

He knew the truth, and he encouraged people to get outside and get into nature. We are not separate from the planet we are living on, and universe we are living in – and when you understand that and embody that, it’s magical.

I believe connecting with nature is so important that I’ve included forest bathing (Shinrin-Yoku) into my wellness retreat coming up in North Carolina.

If you are seeking to rejuvenate your body, mind and spirit, and find a deeper connection to yourself and the entire universe – escape into the woods with me and join other wellness seekers on a journey to reclaim your health, vitality and happiness.

I’ll see you in the forest!

Rediscover Your Radiance, A Retreat for Revitalization, Joy and Renewal