There’s a video going around social media about the Japanese practice of “forest bathing,” and it’s a concept I believe in and love.
The Japanese phrase for “forest bathing” — or taking in the forest atmosphere — is “shinrin-yoku,” and the government has been promoting it since the 1980s.
Japanese researchers have spent a lot of time studying the effects of shinrin-yoku. They’ve found that time spent in forest environments reduces feelings of stress, anxiety, and anger and improves energy. On the physiological front, it promotes lower levels of stress hormone, lower pulse, and lower blood pressure. Researchers have even found that forest bathing increases the activity of “natural killer” cells in the immune system. These cells respond to viruses and tumors. The scientists attribute the change to phytoncides, or the oils trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects. As forest bathers inhale them, they’re inhaling better immune system health.
The concept behind forest bathing is one of the reasons I offer walking therapy sessions on the Boise greenbelt. Getting out in nature is good for the soul, and there’s science to prove it.
Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.
Let’s talk about stress. You know it’s bad for you emotionally, but did you know it’s dangerous physically, too?
It’s true. When you’re stressed out and you repress it, the stress can resurface as a physical illness. You may even find yourself in the emergency room with chest pains and shortness of breath — a panic attack masquerading as a heart attack.
While panic attacks won’t kill you immediately, the long term effects of your anxiety can. We’re talking about blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Stress contributes to each of those.
In the short term, you could experience pain in your head, chest, stomach, or muscles. You might feel fatigued and have trouble sleeping. You could see changes in your sex drive. You might take longer than usual to recover from illness.
You also have to watch out for harmful behavior that could be addictive. Some people self harm or turn to drugs and alcohol to escape their anxiety. Others find an outlet in shopping, gambling, or sexual behavior they later regret.
So you need to find healthy ways to fight your stress. You probably know better than anyone what relaxes you: Is it exercise? Doing art or another hobby? Being with family or friends? Getting a massage? Being in nature? Meditation?
Therapy can be so helpful. Your therapist can help you identify sources of stress and strategies for relieving it. Even just having someone to listen in a non-judgmental way while you talk about your problems can be a big help.
So if you’re stressed, come on in. Let’s talk about it.
A link I’ve long suspected has now been confirmed by scientists: Children who come from homes with troubling conditions are more likely to have ADHD than their peers from non-troubled homes.
The parent survey analysis showed ADHD has the strongest connection with economic hardship, divorce, familial mental illness, neighborhood violence, and familial incarceration. More severe cases of ADHD were tied most strongly with economic hardship and familial mental illness.
Children who deal with situations like these can develop toxic levels of stress, which can impair their brain development, behavior, and overall physical and mental health.
This is another reason it’s so important to look at a complete picture when it comes to mental health. For someone dealing with stressors at home as well as ADHD, it would be easy to confuse responses to stress with ADHD symptoms. We need to be sure we’re treating the symptoms from the most informed perspective about where they’re coming from.
Your child’s general practitioner may not know to ask these questions when a child shows signs of ADHD. Make sure you’re involving a specialist when it comes to helping your child with his or her mental health.
Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.