It should not be surprising that there exists a suicide forest in Japan named Aokigahara, which reports the highest number of suicidal incidents worldwide. Historically suicide was considered an act of courage by Samurai, trained warriors. However, the present scenario has changed, and many suicidal incidents come from stress, financial burden, betrayal in love, arguments, etc. A psychologist researching the Aokigahara forest identified that many suicidal incidents were from the mental cause, primarily from work stress. Well, Japan and Korea report the highest number of work hours per day, which makes sense that the country has such a high massive death rate from self-slaughter.
In modernizing world, it is therefore essential to take breaks from daily office schedules and stabilize mental strength using natural and native methods. One of the brilliant and proven methods involves hiking. Hiking has several psychological and physical benefits, including boosting immunity, reduced mental anxiety, increased stamina, and reduced hypertension/blood pressure. Considering this fact, a particular form of hiking was introduced Japan in the 1980s called Shinrin-yoku, forest bathing. Shinrin-yoku is a method where participants spend a week traveling to a nearby forest, detaching themselves from all electronic devices and the internet. The technique has been proven to have brilliant impacts on improvements in depression.
Since Covid 19, hiking activity has gained popularity in most city areas. The number of visiting people massively increased, and many people made hiking their hobby, which they regularly follow to this day. But like everyone else, why should you partake in hiking, and what natural healing benefits can you achieve from hiking:
1. Improves immunity
Ayurveda, the oldest form of medicine in Hindu culture, describes the balance of five earth elements(fire, water, sky, earth, air) in our body that defines our health. If all these five forms can be activated in the body, both body and mind heal themselves. The Psychosomatic theory describes the same thing, explaining that the mind can create illness in the body. Hiking to natural areas activates all these five elements that restore your natural body and mind.
Scientifically, it can be explained in a much simpler way. “All forms of living species on Earth share some prey-predator relationships. The same goes for plants and insects. To protect from insect harm, trees release a chemical called phytoncides. The chemical has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which help plants fight disease. When breathing such chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing white blood cells, activating our Natural killer cells. The killer cells protect us from diseases and boost our immunity.”
2. Lower blood pressure and hypertension:
The benefits of hiking in reducing blood pressure/hypertension have been reported globally. Several pieces of research have validated that walking in green areas significantly reduces blood pressure. The most recent finding was 20 clinical trials where more than 732 participants were reviewed. Those participants who regularly walked to green spaces or spent some time in green areas in a week significantly reduced blood pressure.
In an experiment where the participants were advised to walk in green and non-green areas, green areas saw a massive drop in blood pressure compared to non-green spaces as well. Such surprising findings have something to relate with the human evolutionary lifecycle. Because humans evolved in forests and green spaces, it makes sense that they naturally prefer green areas that release happy hormones, which stabilize the brain.
3. Reduces anxiety and panic attacks
The adrenaline rush produced in the human body accumulates if not removed. Over time the collected adrenaline causes muscle tension and depression. Walking and hiking help release such recessive energy and improves mood and freshness. A study was conducted on forest bathing participants, and their mental health and anxiety levels were measured during the forest bathing period. The study saw a massive decline in anxiety levels, depression symptoms, and stress.
4. Improves physical health
Well, improvement of physical health is the most imminent benefit of hiking. On average, 100 calories get burnt for every mile of walking at a rate of 2.5 miles per hour. If the walking speed increases, the calorie burn reaches 500 per hour. All these calorie-burning processes and walking increase bone density and reduce bone wear. The exact process also reduces arthritis and osteoporosis. Other health benefits include increased insulin resistance and prevention of diabetes that develops from increased physical activities such as walking in the forest.