How Trees Boost Your Immune System

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December 13, 2017

Qing Li, the medical professor in Tokyo, put together a list of basic rules to create the ideal interaction between forest trees and the human immune system. Professor Li is one of the leading scientists in the area of forest medicine. He advises:

 

  • Remain in a woodland for at least two hours, while walking approximately 1.5 miles (2.5 km). If you have four hours to spend there, hike about 2.5 miles (4km). In order to boost your natural killer cells and anti-cancer proteins over a longer period of time as well, it is recommendable to spend three days in a row in a forest.
  • Make a walking/hiking plan that suits your physical condition. Make sure you don’t get tired during your time in the woods.
  • If you feel tired, take a break whenever you want and as long as you want. Look for a place in the forest where you feel comfortable.
  • If you’re thirsty, try to drink water or tea.
  • Pick a place in the forest that you spontaneously like and invites you to stay. Stay there for a while, sitting and reading, for example, or meditating, whatever you want, but enjoying the gorgeous ambiance and relaxing.
  • To lastingly maintain the number and activity of your immune system’s natural killer cells and anti-cancer proteins, Qing Li recommends staying in a forest region two or three days per month and advises spending about four hours each day in the woods.
  • In addition to his advice, I’d like to add the following tips that I consider very helpful:
    • The contents of the anti-cancer terpenes in the forest air change over the seasons. The highest concentration is in summer and the lowest in winter. They increase rapidly in April and May, and in June and August, reach their peak. During these months, there are the most terpenes in the woods for your immune system to absorb.
    • Furthermore, you can find the highest concentration of terpenes in the middle of the forest, since tree population is the densest there. The tree leaves and needles form an especially rich source. Additionally, the dense canopy prevents these gaseous substances from escaping the forest. Therefore, it is advisable to go further into the woods and not just spend time on the edges.
    • When the air is moist, for example after rain or during fog, a particularly large amount of healthy terpenes is swirling around the forest air. This means we weren’t going crazy when we felt especially good during a walk in the woods after rain showers.
    • By the way, anti-cancer terpenes are the densest in and near the ground, where we humans are normally present. Higher up, some of them are destroyed by the sun’s UV light that manages to get through the canopy here and there. Thus, it appears as if the distribution of this healthy substance was actually tailored to our body size.

 

Important: Don’t forget that forest medicine is especially helpful when it comes to preventing disease. However, if you are already sick, or feel sick, please go straight to your doctor. Forest medicine is under no circumstances a replacement for conventional medical check-ups.

 

Looking for more great reads?

Excerpted from The Biophilia Effect by Clemens G. Arvay.

Clemens G. Arvay, MSC, is a biologist and nonfiction writer who studied landscape ecology and applied plant science in Vienna and Graz. He centers his work on the relationship between man and nature, focusing on the health-promoting e?ects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. His most recent book is The Healing Code of Nature (Random House Germany, 2016). He lives in Austria. For more, visit arvay.info.

Clemens G. Arvay

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A Nature Meditation for Better Focus

A Nature Meditation for Better Focus A Nature Meditation for Better Focus

  1. Find a quiet spot in nature or in your garden where you don’t feel observed. If you choose a forest, look for a hiding place or a protected area. A high boulder, hill, or mountainside also works well for meditation.
  2. Find a sensory impression that appeals to you and generates positive feelings, ideally one that fascinates you. Either a sound you hear, an object that appeals to you and you can hold in your hand, or maybe something else that you can see but not touch, like rays of sunshine cutting through the trees or a line of ants hiking across the forest floor.
  3. Concentrate completely on your nature object. How does it feel? Notice the details. Get into your sensory perception and concentrate only on this perception. Try to put other sensory impressions in the background.
  4. Try to assign your sensory impression an emotion. How does it feel in your mind? What does it remind you of?
  5. Invite these feelings without forcing them. After a while, redirect your attention more and more to these feelings and toward your inner self. Do this knowing that your nature object triggered these feelings in you and represents itself in this way inside you.
  6. Once you feel that your meditation is complete or that you can no longer maintain your concentration, you can thank your nature object with an inner or outer gesture and gradually direct your attention to other stimuli in your environment, one by one, until you see nature as a whole again.

Excerpted from The Healing Code of Nature: Discovering the New Science of Eco-Psychosomatics by Clemens G. Arvay.

Clemens G. ArvayHealing Code of NatureBorn in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. He also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

 

Buy your copy of The Healing Code of Nature at your favorite bookseller!

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How to Breathe With Your Whole Body

Blog header - How to Breathe With Your Whole Body Sounds True blog

Spending time in the woods—or shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”)—has been proven to significantly strengthen our immune system and increase our overall happiness. The forest air triggers our bloodstream to produce 40 percent more natural killer cells, which help fight harmful viruses, bacteria, and other illnesses. The tradition of forest bathing goes back a long time in Japan’s folk medicine, but it has its longest history in China and Taiwan and has been called senlinyu there for centuries.

Ancient knowledge about healing from nature is also found in traditional Chinese medicine. Numerous exercises from qigong are designed to “absorb the chi of nature” and are carried out mainly in forests or green areas with trees. Even the qigong masters of the past apparently knew that nature not only heals in the form of plant- and mineral-based pharmaceutical substances, but also by a person simply being present in a green space and breathing. In qigong, absorbing the chi of nature is always associated with breathing techniques.

Xiaoqiu Li, a two-time Chinese state champion in wushu (traditional Chinese martial arts), taught me the following exercise for “whole-body breathing.” This specific exercise helps you to take in the healthy forest air quite intensely and to release old air and harmful substances very consciously. You will especially feel the purifying effects of this exercise in your body if you are a smoker or live in a polluted city.

Look for a place in the woods that appeals to you and that has an even surface to stand on, and then follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and as parallel to each other as possible, with your knees slightly bent and arms relaxed at your sides.
  2. “Open” your chest cavity by lifting your arms up in the air away from your body, in the form of a circle overhead, as if you were a tree revealing its mighty crown to the sky. Take a deep breath in while doing this, starting in your stomach and continuing to fill up your chest with air.
  3. When your arms meet over your head, guide them down in front of your body, holding them together and parallel to each other. Simultaneously begin to breathe out, making fists with your hands while squatting down.
  4. At the end of these movements, slowly press your elbows against your body at stomach level. This pressing of the elbows and curving of your body help your lungs to empty themselves entirely.
  5. Repeat these movements slowly and mindfully and try to make everything as smooth as possible.

Excerpted from The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature by Clemens G. Arvay.

Clemens Arvay - The Whole-Body Breathing Exercise Sounds True BlogBorn in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. He also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

 

 

Summer Super Sale - The Biophilia Effect

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5 Ways to Bring Nature into Playtime: The Biophilia Ef...

The childhood capacity to play creatively helps kids learn how to solve problems more effectively. Children develop their motor and mechanical skills, as well as planning skills and teamwork. The fact that many of our children now spend little time playing outdoors, growing up instead with commercial toys, video game consoles, computer games, and television prevents them from learning practical things in such a simple and joyful way as playing creatively in nature. Spending more time in nature or in a garden can bring this aspect back into the development of our children.

Spending time in nature can also significantly help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Richard Louv, a contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post, speaks of the “Ritalin of nature” and advocates that children be treated with time in nature instead of with medication. But even for children without ADHD, the effects of being in nature boost attention and concentration.

Patrik Grahn—professor in environmental psychology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences—and his team compared children in two kindergartens. One group played regularly on a playground that was mostly paved over, had few plants, and was surrounded by high-rise buildings. The other playground was in the middle of woods and meadows, bordering an overgrown orchard with old fruit trees. The children played there in almost any weather. Professor Grahn showed that these children exhibited better physical coordination and significantly better concentration skills in comparison to the children going to a playground with less nature.

Children’s ability to communicate also increases, as the researchers from the University of Illinois found in the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory. They also proved that symptoms of restlessness and hyperactivity can be alleviated even in ADHD patients by regularly playing in nature. I recommend the following to parents and teachers who wish to improve their children’s attention, communication skills, and concentration:

  • If possible, try to set up your children’s playroom/bedroom in a room that has a view of nature.
  • Motivate children to play outside in green surroundings whenever possible—even in the rain or snow!
  • Be an advocate for natural schoolyards at your children’s school. It is especially important for the recovery of the child’s ability to concentrate and interact.
  • Plant and care for trees and other vegetation at home, or work with your landlord to establish a community garden in your apartment area.
  • Get creative and make toys and other crafts from natural “supplies” from nature, such as this gourd music maker:

Musical Instruments from Gourds: Here’s How to Do It!

Dried gourds from your garden—whether short and spherical, long and cone-shaped, or those with a huge, bulbous, resounding body—make excellent rattles for children. Any variety of bottle gourds, also known as calabashes, is good for making a rattle.

Harvest the ripe calabashes in autumn. Now let the spongy flesh inside dry up and shrink. To do this, hang the calabashes at home in a way that allows sufficient air circulation around them; above a heater is particularly suitable. Drying is best done during the cold season, when home heaters are on, since low humidity is important for success. The calabashes must not touch one another, for this encourages decomposition.

During drying, it is hard to avoid a slight mold coating on the shell. This can be regularly wiped off with a cloth. You only have to take care that the gourd doesn’t get soft or rotten in spots. Occasionally it is possible to keep the calabash entirely mold-free by scraping off the outermost skin early in the drying process. Once the fruit is dried, the rattle is ready. The fruit flesh inside is sufficiently dried and shrunk so that the seeds are now free in the resulting cavity and will rattle when shaken.

Of course, calabashes can be further crafted into more sophisticated musical instruments, such as the finger piano (kalimba), which children especially like. If you enjoy working with your hands, bongos or a sitar—an Indian string instrument—can also be created from bottle gourds, as these offer an optimal resounding space. There are also types of gourds with very long, narrow fruits that, after drying and scraping, can produce a didgeridoo with proper bass and rich overtones. The Australian Aborigines traditionally made didgeridoos from branches and trunks of eucalyptus trees that were naturally hollowed out by termites in the wild.

Children will love to play instruments that they watched growing in the garden. This creates a connection that is so much more valuable than any store-bought rattle or toy drum. Other items of daily use can be produced from gourds, such as bottles, spoons, pitchers, dolls, ornamental objects, and many others. There is no limit to your creativity, and the internet is full of instructions for the use of calabashes as musical instruments and utensils.

Born in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. The author also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

Buy your copy of The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

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Embracing Empathy as Your Superpower

What do I do when a loved one is suffering? How do I have empathy if I’m getting a divorce or losing my job? If my family treats me unfairly? Or if I’m emotionally overwhelmed or in chronic pain?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, I’ve written The Genius of Empathy for you. It also includes a beautiful foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In the book, I present empathy as a healing force that helps you overcome obstacles in your life with dignity, grace, and power. As a psychiatrist and empath, I draw from my insights and present techniques from my own life and from the healing journeys of my clients, students, and readers. As I say in the book, “Empathy softens the struggle, quiets the unkind voices, and lets you befriend yourself again.”

Empathy doesn’t mean being “on call” 24 hours a day for those in need. Empaths can often wear an invisible sign that says, “I can help you.” However, if you want to heal yourself, have better relationships, and contribute to healing our tumultuous world, you must learn how to set healthy boundaries and observe, not absorb, the energy of others.

To start taking a more proactive role in how much empathy you give others at any one time, I suggest that you keep in mind the following “rights.” They will help you maintain a healthy mindset and prevent or lessen any empathy overwhelm that might arise:

  • I have the right to say a loving, positive “no” or “no, thank-you.”
  • I have the right to set limits with how long I listen to people’s problems.
  • I have the right to rest and not be always available to everyone.
  • I have the right to quiet peacefulness in my home and in my heart.

Practice: Take a Sound Break to Repair Yourself

Plan periods of quiet to recover from our noisy, fast-paced world. This helps calm your nervous system and your mind, an act of self-empathy.

It’s rejuvenating to schedule at least five minutes of quiet or, even better, complete silence for an hour or more where no one can intrude. As I do, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office or bedroom door. During this reset period, you’ve officially escaped from the world. You’re free of demands and noxious sounds. You may also get noise canceling earbuds to block out noise.

If too much quiet is unsettling, go for a walk in a local park or a peaceful neighborhood to decompress from excessive sound stimulation. Simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other, which is called mindful walking. Nothing to do. Nothing to be. Move slowly and refrain from talking. If thoughts come, keep refocusing on your breath, each inhalation and exhalation. Just letting life settle will regenerate your body and empathic heart.

Embracing your empathy does require courage. It can feel scary. If you’re ready to discover its healing power, I would be honored to be your guide to helping you in overcoming your fears and obstacles, and enhancing this essential skill for long-term change.

Though many of us have never met, I feel connected to you. Connection is what fuels life. While empathy is what allows you to find peace. With both, we can make sense of this world together.

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Ignite empathy as a superpower for personal healing, deeper relationships, and more potent work in the world. New York Times bestselling author Dr. Judith Orloff draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, and energy medicine to show us how to access our sensitivities, soothe our nervous systems, and embody our most fierce and authentic selves.

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