Do you live in the big city? Then your need for nature is sure to be even greater! And not without good reason: scientific studies have demonstrated the link between stress reduction and nature – going green makes you healthy, it's a proven fact. As a matter of fact, this has been known for quite some time. Back in the 1990s, the University of Götebord (Sweden) established the link between a green environment and good health. According to research conducted at the time, patients recovered more quickly after an operation if the view from their hospital bed included plenty of green space – bushes & trees. They required fewer painkillers and their mental state was also more optimistic with regard to their recovery.
At around almost the same time, in 1982 to be exact, a new movement emerged in Japan, initiated by the Ministry for Forestry: "Shinrin Yoku", which translates as "Forest Bathing". Originally intended as a means by which to keep the forests intact, it is now focussed almost entirely on the medical benefits. Close to Tokyo, a healing forest was created, to which millions of people make pilgrimages on a daily basis, and Japanese researchers have proven that forest bathing, as strange as the term may sound, is by no means esoteric, but that it can indeed make a significant contribution to your regeneration and the relaxation of your head, and also your muscles. Nowadays doctors in Japan can specialise in the field and train as consultants in forest medicine. It's little wonder that the trend is gradually making its way from east to west.
This "forest therapy" is actually very simple. It is simple because you can do it without any instruction: you go into the forest and simply try to allow the trees, the ferns, the animals, and the smells take effect on you. Which birds can you hear? How does it smell? Have you ever walked barefoot over moss? Or hugged a mighty oak? Did you know that beech trees smell different to oak trees and that tree species exchange scents, allowing them to communicate with one another? This on its own is already incredibly exciting! When you sit on a tree trunk: which bugs are there, crawling around you? Little observations like this, along with mindfulness exercises in the forest really allow you to immerse yourself in the forest atmosphere and absorb its vibrations. You will forget your own problems - that argument with your boyfriend or girlfriend, the worries of the workplace, and much more will fade into the background – and this is what relaxation is: letting go. One of the leading forest physicians,, Prof. Qing Li from the University of Tokyo, expresses it in really simple terms:
"Forest bathing is the art of connecting with nature, with all of our senses.”
Anywhere where there is even a small patch of forest. Even a relaxed walk can constitute forest bathing. However, if you listen to a podcast or engage your attention in lively debate during this walk, you will not really become immersed in the green world around you. So, a little mindfulness up your sleeve would not go a miss. However, you can always simply let yourself drift away. Lying in a hammock and watching the leaves dance to the ground actually counts as forest bathing, of which there are many forms. In the broadest sense, breathing or meditation classes underneath the trees can also count, and even a forest run. However, in its original sense, forest bathing means engaging with the forest. You can do this either with or without signing up for classes. Perhaps it would sharpen your senses if your were to try it out for the first time with a coach. Perhaps you would like to try it out by yourself a few times, before calling on a trained course provider for some advanced training. For example, Germany's most well-known forest-lover, Peter Wohlleben, offers training as a forest guide in his forest school. Since 2018 there has also been an academy for forest bathing & health, which is based in Rheinland Pfalz and is the first institution in Germany to offer training courses. The practice is thus increasing in popularity. If you are looking for other suggestions: the "Bundesverband Waldbaden" (Federal Forest Bathing Association) has been active since February 2019. It was recently called upon by the German Forestry Certification Council to collaborate on the development of standards for therapeutic and healing forests. Incidentally, the island of Usedom now boasts the first German spa forest.
Have you discovered forest bathing for yourself, or do you love walking in nature? With these exercise routines, you can relax your muscles and fasciae after exertion or prepare for activity. Give it a try now. >
There now exist quite a number of studies concerning the healing benefits of the forest. The positive effects stem mostly from terpenes, which are secondary bioactive plant substances, which reinforce our defences. However, even the colour green alone is said to have a health-promoting effect.
However, you should also allow yourself time for the healing effects to regulate. Japanese researchers work on the assumption that it is only after a four-hour stay that a health-promoting effect begins to set in.
Generally speaking: during a break (and incidentally in the same way as when sleeping) the body begins its repair process and send neurotransmitters to the locations where minor healing measures are required. However, for athletes, the following also applies: during a break, the muscles grow and the effects of training set in. Therefore, it is incredibly important that you schedule in breaks so that your body and mind can literally press the reset button after a stressful day. Forest bathing is a commonly practised healthcare treatment, and really helps you to slow things down in various different ways.