Learn How Breast Cancer Patients Benefit From Forest Bathing

forest-bathing-for-breast-cancer-patients

Try forest bathing to support your immune system

In 1982, the Forest Agency of Japan first proposed that ‘forest bathing,’ was good for your health. No, forest bathing is not dragging a bathtub into the woods and having a soak – although that does sound good! Rather it is visiting a forest or wood for relaxation, and gentle recreation, and breathing in the volatile substances from the trees. When did you last forest bathe?

Since 1982, forest bathing (aka ‘forest therapy’ and ‘Shinrin yoku’) has become a cornerstone of preventive health and healing in Japanese medicine. Many research studies, mainly from Japan and South Korea, have looked at how forest bathing creates positive effects. One of the key benefits is that it is seen to improve our immune function by increasing the number and activity of natural killer cells.

Natural Killer Cells

Natural killer (NK) cells are a type of white blood cells that provide a rapid response to viral-infected cells and cancer cells. These immune cells don’t rely on antibodies so are able to produce a much faster immune reaction than other immune cells. They have a tumor immunosurveillance role, directly killing tumor cells. Take a look at this brief video which shows you how they work:

Natural killer cells are therefore of prime importance to destroying cancer cells in our body. Thus we can see that using lifestyle approaches like forest bathing to improve our natural killer cell activity can help in both prevention of cancer – by killing those rogue tumor cells formed everyday – and in the prevention of metastasis of tumors.

Phytoncides

One of the factors that has been identified as causing these immune improvements is our breathing-in of phytoncides – the natural chemicals secreted by evergreen trees, such as a-pinen and limonene. The levels of phytoncide in the air seem to correlate with the improvements in immune functioning. If we look back in history, these health effects were recognized then; in the 1800s, many tuberculosis clinics were set up in pine forests. Patients’ outcomes were reported as them having a “forest cure.”

Health benefits of Forest Bathing

In addition to the benefits of increased NK cells and their activity, bathing ourselves in the forest environment has been shown to also:

  • reduce blood pressure
  • reduce stress
  • improve mood
  • increase energy
  • improve sleep
  • support deeper and clearer intuition
  • decrease adrenaline levels
  • reduce pain
  • ease mental fatigue

Image of the concept of forest bathing – immersing in the forest environment for immune support, from CALMERme.com

Incorporating forest bathing into your life

Trees, sunshine, grass, and wildlife all too frequently take a backseat in our busy city or urban lives.

Think back to the last time you were surrounded by nature – maybe a walk when you noticed the fresh, vibrant green of a new leaf, or an insect, or the color of the bark of a tree, or saw a rabbit hop past. These moments of discovery and fascination are spontaneous and effortless kinds of attention, not like the attention we have to use at work or during most of our day. As we follow our curiosity from the leaf to a flower to a butterfly, we relax in an exploration of nature which gives our attention-driven brain a break. The sounds of nature are also important, for example, the calming sound of water helps to balance our hormones. Forest bathing doesn’t involve going for a strenuous hike in the woods; rather, it has a gentleness and awareness to it – a sensory experience.

So consider giving yourself a break, and find some time this week to be in nature. Let that effortless attention and fascination take over. And if you aren’t up for that, try bringing some nature indoors to you – open the windows, look at the trees, listen to the sound of a waterfall on your computer, put a nature screensaver on your computer screen, watch a nature DVD…. Yes, even looking at a scene of a forest has been found to reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone) 13% compared to looking at an urban scene.

Resources

For more information on forest bathing, take a look at this Shinrin-yoku website and the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. Many of the research studies are shown on the Association website too. These resources also include information about guides, local walks, and training to become a forest therapist. The walks are short in distance and focus on breathing, relaxing, listening, healing, wandering, and touch.

Ruth BaillieRuth Baillie is originally from the UK and now lives most of the year in Northern California. She holds two Master’s degrees, one in Personalized Nutrition (distinction), and another in Health Psychology. She is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Certified Professional Cancer Coach, and Cancer Guide, and has undertaken considerable post-graduate studies in integrative naturopathic oncology. She is the author of “Choices in mind-body medicine for cancer patients in Sonoma County, California” and her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

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How Many Minutes of Daily Meditation to Combat Stress?

How Many Minutes of Daily Meditation to Combat Stress?

Breast Cancer Yoga Model Angela Strynkowski RYT 500

In the film The Holiday, Cameron Diaz exclaims “Severe stress … causes the DNA in our cells to shrink until they can no longer replicate.” Did Hollywood get the science right?

The enzyme that builds and maintains the caps at the tips of our chromosomes (called telomeres) appear to slow the aging of our cells. Do people who are stressed have shorter telomeres? To answer that question, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco measured the telomere lengths in mothers of chronically ill children—what could be more stressful than that? The longer a woman had spent being the main caretaker of her ill child, the shorter her telomeres. The extra telomere shortening in the most stressed mothers was equivalent to that caused by at least a decade of aging. We see the same thing in caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients and those suffering severe work-related exhaustion. Even those abused as children may grow up with shorter telomeres.

There’s not much we can do about our past, but if we manage our stress now, can we grow some telomeres back? If we go on a meditation retreat and meditate for 500 hours, we can indeed boost our telomerase activity (the enzyme that restores our telomeres)—but there’s got to be a quicker fix.

In an exciting study from UCLA and UC San Francisco (highlighted in my video, Does Meditation Affect Cellular Aging?, caregivers of family members with dementia were randomized to just 12 minutes of daily meditation for eight weeks, or just about ten hours in total. The meditators experienced significant benefit, including better mental and psychological function accompanied by an increase in telomerase activity, suggesting an improvement in stress-induced cellular aging.

Here’s a link to the backgrounder video that presents the original Ornish study: Research Into Reversing Aging. I cover the comparable effects of diet and exercise in my video Telomeres – Cap It All Off with Diet.

I have a few videos on using aromatherapy and other modalities to help deal with stress:

For life extension in general, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Michael Greger M.D.About Michael Greger M.D.Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

Delegate

Delegate - Breast Cancer Stress ManagementAs a person affected by cancer in one way or another, your life as you have known it has changed. You did not get a vote about the change, but you do get a vote about how you are going to navigate your life. Today’s word is DELEGATE.

Don’t let your life become overwhelming, DELEGATE as much you can to someone else. DELEGATE household chores to your children, partner, or house partners. DELEGATE things that you don’t like doing or don’t want to do. For instance, if you hate ironing, DELEGATE it to another family member or pay someone else to do it for you. Most of the things that require your time and energy can be hired out and DELEGATED to someone else who needs to make a living doing the things that you hate to do. Rather than think about yourself as lazy or unmotivated realize that DELEGATING difficult or an unpleasant chore to others for hire is a way to keep the system moving. Get as much stuff off of your to to-do list as possible because you need all of your energy to recover and let the body return to optimum health.

What is that message in your head when you ask someone else to do something for you? Where did that message come from? If you allowed yourself to be gentle with your need to DELEGATE some of that stuff on your plate what is the worst that could happen? Would it be guilt, or your fear someone else won’t do it right or the way you want it done? Transitioning your attitude to be willing to DELEGATE as a management style may not be a smooth transition, but it can be helpful in lowering your levels of stress and chaos once you learn to DELEGATE.

Chose three things to DELEGATE this week. Look at the things in your life that are irritating you, stealing your energy, or are just too hard for you to do right now. Three may seem like a lot but through this process, you will choose the number one priority to DELEGATE. Reflect over the past few days or weeks about your thoughts. How many times have you wished someone else would do the laundry but you didn’t ask or delegate? You probably didn’t ask or delegate because you minimized the task. Perhaps you said something like, “How hard is it to throw a load of laundry in the machine and transfer it to the dryer? Come on, it is no big deal, just do it.” But then when the dryer finished, you just wanted to crawl into those warm clothes and go to sleep rather than fold them. Your body needs rest. Your cells need to be strong and capable of fighting off those mutant cells that want to build tumors. Give yourself permission to rest.

Thus, back to your list of three. Choose one from the list as a practice DELEGATE task. Create a plan on how you are going to DELEGATE and to whom. Write specific instructions on how you want this task to be done and make arrangements for a finish task time. DELEGATE it and see how it goes. Then move on to the other two items on your list. As you become a pro at DELEGATION, the goal is to have time and energy for the top five things on your list that matter most for your healing; rest, sleep, healthy eating, yoga and time to enjoy your favorite people in your life.

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

Why De-Stress With Meditation

De-Stress With MeditaionBY: Dinndayal Morgan Yogi Priest/Life Coach/Speaker/5 Rings Movement Therapist & Executive Director at Pathfinder Institute.

Meditation has been practiced for as long as anyone can remember. It’s still being practiced now as a means to promote better health and well-being and has been integrated as part of therapy programs for various conditions. One of the most popular applications is to de-stress with meditation.

Stress seems to be one of the primary things that people are battling these days, and with good reason. Stress can be triggered by a number of things: health, emotional problems, relationships, major life changes, your job (or for some people, the lack of one), or even the environment. Sometimes, involvement in a traumatic event can even cause prolonged stress disorders that may require professional help to deal with.

To de-stress with meditation is a practical exercise that more and more people are getting into. Proper execution of meditation techniques allows the practitioner to slow his/her busy and stressful mind. The result of that, more often than not, is better focus and concentration because meditation can tune out the mental chatter in our minds that can get in the way of being able to do our required tasks properly. The best time of day to meditate is right after waking up because that is when your body is most rested and your subconscious is much more receptive. That being said, you can take advantage of this time to fill your subconscious with positive thoughts which may be able to set the tone for how you’re going to tackle the rest of the day.

You can get a lot of benefits out of meditation, but its primary goal is to enhance your awareness of the present moment. That means, you won’t allow whatever happened in the past to take a hold of you emotionally and mentally, nor would you be unreasonably anxious about the future. Regular meditation is most helpful in managing stress and anxiety.

You may de-stress with meditation using any technique you are comfortable with, and there are so many that you can try. There are resources on meditation found online, in books, and there are even some classes on meditation you can take to be able to find the best technique for your lifestyle. Apart from books and online references, you may also find meditation music and recordings of calming sounds to enhance your meditation experience. In my 42 years experience one of the best approaches to finding the right type of meditation is base upon your body/mind type.

Dinndayal MorganDinndayal Morgan
Yogi Priest/Life Coach/Speaker/5 Rings Movement Therapist..Executive Director at Pathfinder Institute

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