What Outdoor Elements & Design Can Teach Us About Lowering Blood Pressure, Reducing Inflammation & Counteracting Chronic DiseaseRead Now
What Outdoor Elements & Design Can Teach Us About Lowering Blood Pressure, Reducing Inflammation & Counteracting Chronic Disease
Have you ever heard of the practice called shinrin-yoku? Shinrin-yoku is actually something I talk about in the classes that I teach in traditional Chinese medicine because the research behind it is so interesting and the results for individuals are so simple, effective, and worth noting. So what is shinrin-yoku? Where does it come from? How can it be incorporated into our lives in order to benefit our health?
Shinrin-yoku is essentially the practice of forest bathing. You will see that shinrin-yoku is something that is typically being prescribed by doctors in areas like Japan, other parts of Asia and certain areas in Europe. The United States is beginning to catch on as well, but we still have a long way to go here. So what does Forest bathing do for us, how does it play a role in our health, and how can you incorporate this into your life to reap the benefits? Shinrin-yoku has been found to reduce blood pressure, reduce overall inflammation, and reduce stress biomarkers. This has been documented in research and you can actually find it on PubMed.gov which is a common place where research is published. These studies are actually something that I came across during post-graduate studies in health and human performance at the Pacific College of Health and Science. It is something that I have prescribed to my patients, and I simply can never forget it because of the results being so notable.
Shinrin-yoku is essentially spending your time outside, in the real outdoors, getting immersed in mother nature. Feeling the ground beneath your feet and maintaining presence in the moment. We want to focus on earthing, meaning getting your feet onto the Earth in order to essentially discharge your overly positive electrical charge that comes as result of using things like wireless technology and screens for example. When we have the ability to interact with negative ions such as those that come from the Earth it actually helps balance us out. This is why we can reduce inflammatory biomarkers which leads to things like lowering the blood pressure and anxiety and stress. The earthing and practice of shinrin-yoku itself is an extremely interesting practice and something I certainly recommend because as humans we are actually designed to be a part of the Earth. Modern society has changed that a little bit between living in urban areas, living in the city, and having well-developed homes where we create our own microenvironment.
As Far As Design?
So how can we relate this knowledge for art and design in our homes? We can use this because we can actually take this knowledge to incorporate parts of the outdoors inside of our homes or offices to benefit us. Now while getting to the nitty gritty of this would require a health history and intake to discover where you are imbalanced, which by the way is something I do through my medicinal design consultations and is also something I talk about in my book that recently came out how to design for a healthy mind and body) there are some simple things that we can do to benefit us from now. Often people like to include things like plants inside their space, elements like wood, stone and large windows to bring the outdoors in. Not only is this color stimulus beneficial to us but adding something like actual living plants creates more oxygen in the environment to counteract the dirty air that can accumulate within our living spaces. Of course, this is not the same as going outside but, it is still more beneficial than not having anything relating to our natural outdoor habitat.
Drug Free Therapy
The reason I like something like shinrin-yoku is because it is a drug-free natural way to actually treat certain issues that are so common. In TCM a common diagnosis that I see regularly is something we call liver Qi stagnation. Liver Qi stagnation essentially means that a person has unresolved stress, anger, or frustration that is ultimately creating issues within the body. We know through research that stress alone creates the window of disease. Common things you will see with a TCM diagnosis like this could be issues like IBS, constant high stress, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, side pains, IT band pain, sciatic pain going down the side of the leg, PMS symptoms, vertex headaches, menstrual cramping (which is actually not supposed to be a normal occurrence), waking to urinate between 1am-3am in the morning and even certain breast issues like fibrocystic breasts and breast cancer. This does not even touch the surface but it is at least an introduction to show you for the sake of today’s information. While I could dive much deeper into what liver Qi stagnation is, differential diagnostics between TCM, and how this relates to biomedicine and everything in between, that is why I have a practice and teach these things to my doctorate students! Therefore, I digress.
The Macroscopic View
The easiest way I can break it down for you is essentially when we have too much stress in our lives, it enters the body it wreaks havoc on the body often stemming from simple emotional imbalances where we may be feeling stagnant in our own life. shinrin-yoku is exactly something that can help with that. It is placing us within our natural environment and therefore when we can utilize this in our design, it is a way to benefit our micro environment to mirror what would be our ancestral, natural, human, habitat.
It May Be Different Based On Where You Live
Let me note here, the natural environment for someone who lives in the desert would be different for someone who lives on the coast. Therefore, when there are certain imbalances presenting in the body, we can utilize art, design and external elements from the environment to actually balance out the individual. Is it something you may see also in the practice of fengshui however much of this stems from the five-element theory and traditional Chinese medicine principles. The root of all of the of these methods are the result of early taoist teachings and practices.
High Blood Pressure
If we come across someone with high blood pressure of course we could use medication, of course we could use Acupuncture, of course we could use herbal medicine, however what else can we do aside from that? We need to reduce the stress, we need to reduce the anxiety, we need to reduce the frustration, and ultimately we need to get the blood pressure down. Well we have ways to do that in addition to prescription plans. The practice of shinrin-yoku. There are still emotional components that play a role in something like high blood pressure. Therefore getting outdoors, bringing the outdoors in, and immersing oneself within mother nature to ground ourselves to discharge the imbalances positive electrical charges that are present as a result of technology and screens etc. This is why we get better reductions in the blood pressure and inflammation rather than conventional treatment alone. This is why utilizing elements from nature on our walls, utilizing earth tones, utilizing certain lighting, can be extremely beneficial for our health for when we are indoors because as a result we literally can change our environment and the more we can be in an environment we enjoy, the more we actually benefit our internal environment as a result as well.
If you would like to learn more about this concept, check out my book titled, “How To Design For A Healthy Mind & Body” Just Click Below:
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