The conscious walk in the shade of the trees gives energy and at the same time grounds. But what does science say?

In the beginning it was a marketing idea. In Japan in the early 1980s, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was looking for a clever word creation to lure more people into the forest in their free time and to integrate their stay as an integral part of their lifestyle. In a culture that was once deeply rooted in nature, but gradually broke away from it, the term "Shinrin Yoku" came into use. In German: forest bathing.

It has little to do with a dip in the water. It means to immerse yourself in nature, to trace your own five senses, but also to open up to your own psyche. In the meantime, forest bathing has established itself in Japan as a serious research field and part of health care. In Germany, this type of recreation is only now being discovered.

Stop the hamster wheel

First of all: forest bathing is not the same as forest therapy. They are similar to one another, and the borders are blurring, especially in the Far East, but the latter is offered by doctors in our latitudes. The focus is on people with lung diseases, orthopedic or psychosomatic problems. Bathing in the atmosphere of a forest, on the other hand, is supposed to promote health, ideally before there are any physical or psychological complaints. How intense engagement with nature is up to you. From a conscious walk to lingering and listening intensively - in the forest and in yourself - everything is possible. Exercises from yoga or qigong can increase the effect. Whatever you do, you need to do it with care and attention.

"We are all very crazy today," notes Werner Buchberger. " Lots of people are embedded their hamster bikes and also don't do anything with woodland bathing. They go to the maximum for running in nature." And there the performance concept, which often drives everyday life, continues: Of course, the forest is a good place for sporting activities, says Buchberger: "But if I constantly look at my watch and think How fast I am on the move and what I still want to achieve, I am far away from feeling, feeling, coming to rest - and from what can arise in communication with the trees, the forest and yourself." Buchberger knows what he's talking about. As a forester in the Innviertel the forest has accompanied him for 38 years. In addition, he has completed training in the energetic field and holds workshops and seminars that focus on the healing power of nature, simple meditations and exercises: "In Japan, people and nature are much more part of a whole, in Austria and Europe it becomes rather disconnected. " Simply when the woodland Baden would be included this mystical degree, numerous issues would definitely have access to discover on the topic, so Buchberger. However: For fans of hard facts, science has recently compiled a wealth of results that reveal a connection between people and nature that goes far beyond the intuitive perception of "Forest air is good". Japan is again the pioneer here.


Tree of Knowledge

"Only the data from the past ten to 15 years allows us to make scientific statements about the effects of Shinrin Yoku," says Yoshifumi Miyazaki from the University of Chiba in Japan, who has been researching the subject since 1988. It was only since 2000 that technical progress made it possible to measure the activity of the mind and the autonomic nervous system in connection with stress more precisely. During this time, several studies have shown that the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol, which can be measured in saliva, decreases noticeably after a 15-minute walk in the forest. It has also been proven that blood pressure and pulse rate decrease. Yoshifumi MiyazakiHe also went it alone with the help of his team: in 2007, they proved for the first time that prefrontal brain activity calmed down while bathing in the forest - whether walking or sitting did not matter. The subjective feeling that body and mind relax particularly well in nature, was also given objective status.

Qing Li, a pioneer of modern forest medicine, at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, was no less diligent: in 2004 he discovered that staying in the forest supports the formation of killer cells in the immune system. Not only do they fight viruses and bacteria, they recognize and destroy cancer cells (more on this at the end of the article).

Also Read: Take a deep breath: the best relaxation exercises for stress

More trees in the concrete jungle

In times when around half of the world's people live in cities, the knowledge gained in connection with forest bathing is quite exciting. The conclusion cannot only be to visit forests in the surrounding area or natural parks. Today it is known that the health status of residents increases the more trees there are in the neighborhoods themselves. So came environmental and neuropsychologist Marc Berman, one in Toronto The study carried out, to the result: Residents of particularly green apartment blocks, which lay with ten additional trees above the overall average of the city, were "younger" in terms of health by seven years: their risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure and other civilization diseases as compared to other city dwellers.

Find back

"For me, we are not just part of an entire system, nature holds up a mirror to us," says Buchberger. " From the problem of bark beetles and also the passing away of ash in Austria to the big clearing in South America - there is a comparable difficulty in nature as with people. To put it in good German: We are not particularly well. " As well as considering that Homo sapiens spent the majority of its 300,000-year evolutionary background in nature, it is potentially not unusual. Only in the past 200 to 300 years - in the wake of the industrial revolution - have people increasingly removed themselves from their natural environment, writes Yoshifumi Miyazakiin his recently published book "Shinrin Yoku" (Irisiana Verlag): "Genes cannot change completely in just a few hundred years, which is why we live in modern society, but our bodies are still adapted to a natural environment ." His conclusion: We are in a permanent state of stress - and this is followed by stress-related illnesses.

Whether pressure to perform, negative thoughts and emotions, anger or arguments - in the forest, all of this seems to disappear at least for a while. " Obviously it is also an issue of concept," said Buchberger. "That there is a place here where I can let go of things." Ideally, healthy, older mixed stocks, polluted places such as old theaters of war or sick trees should stay clear of: "If you truly feel inside on your own, you will certainly observe that you are not exercising. Then you just go on." Because it could already be a hundred meters away: the private power place where you can take root for a while.


The science behind the rustling of leaves

The positive effect of forest bathing has a lot to do with the so-called terpenes. They serve as a way of communication for the forest and are separated from leaves, needles and other parts of plants as gaseous substances or essential oils. A tree infected with pests can send signaling substances to warn the environment. Plants that understand the message can then start up their own immune systems. Some of these innumerable terpenes are also related to humans.

The knowledge that certain substances, for example, in the form of aromatherapy, can be used well is not new. What has not been known for a long time is that our immune system reacts with a significant increase in the immune system. The team around scientist Qing Li, who has carried out a number of studies at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo over the past few years, found this out around 2004. In order to find out whether the high amounts of terpenes in the forest have a health-promoting effect, test subjects were quartered in hotels. What the test subjects did not know: With the help of an atomizer, half of the participants became one with terpenes during the night enriched air directed into the room. The affected people did not notice anything. Blood was drawn from all subjects on the evening before and the morning after. And lo and behold: the next day, the people who inhaled the tree terpenes at night revealed a significant rise in the number and also activity of natural killer cells and an increased level of anti-cancer proteins in the blood. It was also astonishing: The effects could still be demonstrated after days.

Walkers who experience the effect of terpenes want to take advantage of this can, of course, do it all year round. In the forest, however, the concentration is highest in summer. From April it rises and peaks in July and August. The deeper you go into the forest as well as stay close to the ground, the higher the density of the terpenes. Beside the forest and in the treetops, however, the concentration is lower. The air is particularly rich in wet and cold weather, after rain and in fog. Breathing exercises from yoga or Qi Gong can support the recording. A nice side effect: the relaxation and the peace of mind that occurs when breathing in the forest air.



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