How does nature affect our lives

How forest bathing strengthens our body

I recharge my batteries under beech, larch and spruce trees. The best way to experience the beneficial effects of “forest bathing” is when you are out and about on your own

When I move around in nature, I have animals and plants around me, feel the sky above me and the ground below me: Then I'm fine. Often it is enough just to be outside where it is green. My wife and I have a large garden where we grow vegetables. For me, the job there acts like an anti-stress program. In the midst of nature, I feel joy almost instantly. And silence. Especially when I'm traveling alone. Then I enjoy the weather, wind and clouds. And great thoughts and ideas often come to me in nature - precisely because I'm not doing any specific task.

This freedom from purpose stimulates creativity tremendously, as brain researchers have discovered. For example, if you get into a life crisis and think about a fundamental change in your life, such as a change of job, then the atmosphere of the forest can inspire your thoughts - and let you feel how contact with nature, with living things, strengthens you encouraged.

Fragrances for our immune system

It's probably not just me. Many studies show that nature has a beneficial effect on us - on our mood as well as on the body. Walks in the forest in particular have measurable effects. As soon as we step into a forest, our heart beats quieter, blood pressure drops, and fewer stress hormones circulate in the body.

Leaves unfold their healing power just when we look at them: The green apparently has a calming effect on the body and psyche. Recent research even shows that certain fragrances that the trees give off strengthen our immune system. After a stay in the forest, the number of important defense cells increases measurably. It is no coincidence that the “Shinrin-Yoku” trend, which originated in Asia, has been spreading in Germany for some years now.

Usually this "forest bathing" takes place under the guidance of an expert; In doing so, stays in nature are combined with various exercises - for example with meditation, the training of mindfulness or gentle movement such as Qigong.

Learn to relax in the forest

Most of all, it's about doing everything slowly. No set goal to pursue. That sounds banal, but sometimes the banal things are the most difficult and effective.

I very much welcome this development. Because many people do not dare to simply go into the forest, without a goal, without a plan. And especially for those who may not yet feel safe in the wilderness, it is extremely helpful to be taken by the hand. And to find out how best to do it: to relax in the forest.

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Because that cannot be taken for granted nowadays. Most of us organize our stay in nature in a similar way to our everyday life or our job: with fixed to-do points. For example, if you decide to go hiking, you start at eight in the morning, reach a targeted inn at noon and arrive back at the parking lot in the evening.

Hardly anyone takes, let's say, 300 meters ahead for the day, because it's just so beautiful, and then returns home. Often it is about sheer speed: in other words, about covering a lot of distance. In principle, there is nothing wrong with experiencing nature like this - hiking is relaxing too, you spend time outdoors and see a lot. And yet the forest is more or less reduced to a backdrop in this way.

When swimming in the forest, on the other hand, we turn down the speed. We learn to take off the gas, put our goals aside. We let the moment determine what the next moment will bring. And immerse yourself in nature in a very special way.

In my experience, this works best when you venture out into nature all by yourself. Often two people distract each other by talking to each other and thus diminishing attention to nature. Being alone in the forest, on the other hand, invites you to a special kind of reflection.

I advise everyone to just take a sleeping mat into the forest and lie under a tree for at least an hour. Actually, this is nothing more than a form of forest bathing - free of charge, without instructions. You lie on the floor for an hour or more. If you are not afraid of a little dirt on your clothes, you can also do without the sleeping mat.

It is interesting how the perception changes in such a break from nature. Some of us will find it so cozy that we fall asleep after 15 minutes - which of course is perfectly fine. Another might lose himself after a while with his gaze in the branches above him, and dive into the gentle waves of the treetops while observing.

Those who stay awake will certainly experience how the various senses can be stimulated. How does the moss feel under my hands? What is cracking in the distance? Is it nice how the wind caresses my cheeks?

Maybe a little drizzle falls in between. You should experience that too - and try to withstand a light shower. It's not dangerous.

The brain soon begins to work differently during such a rest period in the forest. Otherwise it is constantly fed with information from our sense organs. And they work very differently in nature, in a way that calms us down.

Just the sense of sight: it is naturally adjusted to medium to long distances. Nowadays, however, many of us work on monitors or look more or less constantly at our smartphones. This is an unnatural burden for the eye. Stress. And, among other things, a reason for the high proportion of nearsighted people in the population.

Or the nose. The rumor is widespread among the population that we humans have a rather poor olfactory organ compared to most animals. That is simply wrong: we just lack practice. Because we hardly need the nose in everyday life.

That doesn't mean that we automatically smell better in nature - but there is nowhere better to train smelling than in the forest. That's why I often say on my tours: Please take a deep breath of air and try to sniff the individual aromas: dry needles? Dead wood? Scent of flowers?

And then nature releases an important treasure

If you lie under a tree for an hour, you will certainly consciously perceive a variety of scents after a while - earthy, spicy or resinous notes. And of course he will also pay more attention to noises from the environment and the temperature than in everyday life.

All of this calms you down immensely, and even more: it makes you happy.

Because by opening all the senses, through the mindful perception of the environment, nature can - at least that's my own experience - reveal its perhaps most important treasure: the insight that nothing in life is static, that everything is constantly changing. Every state has its time, does not last forever.

And that ultimately means: We can meet each other and what is happening around us a little more calmly. And in this way you can almost physically feel how conscious contact with the forest strengthens and encourages us.