“Forest bathing: how the power of trees has an effect

Whichever direction you look – forests and mountains. West of Frankfurt am Main, in the middle of the Taunus, Eppstein lies surrounded by greenery in a hollow. In a small seminar room, Elke Grunwald, Melanie Schneider and Peter Fornoff meet every day for a week. Equipped with hiking boots, functional jackets and outdoor backpacks one sees at first sight, it draws them into the nature.

After a short round of greetings, we set off in the direction of the train station, across the tracks, past a disused tunnel and a little way up the hill – into the forest. Annette Bernjus leads the group. In 2018, she co-founded the German Academy for Forest Bathing and Health and published a book about the Waldbaden published.

Since then, she has been training interested people to become certified course leaders for forest bathing – a total of around 250 people in the meantime. Three of them are Grunwald, Schneider and Fornoff.

Forest medicine is a separate branch of research in Japan

To get in the right mood, we go out into the forest every day during the training program. The group is on the road for a good three hours, but only covers a distance of three kilometers. "Unlike hiking or walking, where we walk through the forest and cover longer distances," Bernjus explains, "forest bathing is about focusing on a small area and experiencing it more intensely."

Forest bathing originally comes from Japan. Among other things it is to Reduce stress and strengthen the general well-being. There, as in South Korea, it has long been recognized as a healing method. Also interesting for you:Designers create fashion from bark: a tree to wear

In Germany a hype developed

Forest bathing has also become a real hype in our country in recent years, explains Angela Schuh, professor of medical climatology at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. This makes it all the more important, he says, to establish a sound scientific database in Germany on the Effects of forest bathing to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Schuh knows that many promises of healing would be made with regard to forest bathing – sometimes even including effects on cancer diseases. "The fact is, however, that with regard to the therapy or treatment of diseases, the data situation is still relatively thin," says the head of the department of medical climatology, spa medicine and prevention.

Forest bathing: Hope in the fight against depression and burnout?

From Schuh's point of view, however, the positive effect on the body has been clearly proven Influence on the psyche. "Spending time in the forest has a relaxing, calming effect and thus reduces the individual stress level."Although the main focus here is on a preventive effect, it is also important for the health of the individual. Whereby forest bathing is according to the professor also a good supplementary mosaic stone in the therapy for example of depressions, psychological stress loads and burnout. Fittingly:Why stress makes people ill and silence promotes health

Grunwald, Schneider and Fornoff stand in a circle with instructor Bernjus. Every day, new tasks, exercises and experiences await the three in the forest. Theory, for example, on didactics, legal regulations, but also on health aspects and the Biology of the forest there will be enough in the course room later.

The forest is about the power of the color green and its effect. Pastor Schneider speaks of green as the color of life. She would like to integrate forest bathing into church services, which she also moves to nature due to the pandemic.

This is followed by a breathing exercise, similar to yoga, but without controlling the breath. It is a matter of coming to rest, the Forest Air to inhale intensively. Bernjus talks about terpenes – substances that trees and other plants secrete to communicate with each other, for example to ward off pests, fungi and bacteria.

How forest bathing affects the brain and immune system

According to the Japanese Qing Li, the terpenes should strengthen the immune system. The researcher is considered one of the pioneers of the Forest medicine. For a study at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, for example, he conducted a three-day forest program with 13 nurses between the ages of 25 and 43 – with a measurably positive effect on the body.

However, due to the design of the study and the small number of participants, Schuh is cautious. She cautions against saying that the killer cells are being activated because of the Terpenes in the forest rise. "However, there is strong evidence that the immune system is definitely strengthened by forest stays," says Schuh. "And that's because the parasympathetic nervous system is activated there."

The parasympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system. Simplified, it is responsible, among other things, for regeneration. It cranks up various metabolic processes and allows us to calm down. This would have a positive effect on the Immune system and can sometimes activate killer cells, according to the medical climatologist.

Tips for proper forest bathing: That advises the academy chief

She also emphasizes that the gentle climate of the forest has also been proven to have a restorative effect. Bernjus also emphasizes this and explains to the future course leaders that the forest not only absorbs the noise of civilization, for example from the nearby highway, but also fine dust and pollutants.

The co-founder of the German Academy for Forest Bathing and Health, Annette Bernjus, formulates different areas of forest bathing:

  • Opening up the five senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste).
  • Also important: breathing, slowness, deceleration, strolling and resting, gentle movements as well as mindfulness and meditation.
  • But also, for example, the amazement and creative design in the forest.
  • Bernjus recommends small exercises, such as dividing the forest into individual picture sections with a frame made of cardboard. Forest bathing, he said, allows people to focus better, consciously direct their attention and perceive more details.

become a forest pool trainer: What appeals to participants?

The former teacher Elke Grunwald experienced firsthand a few years ago that the forest can have a healing effect. He left it after a Burn-out Coming to peace. Forest stays became with it firm Reha component.

Peter Fornoff's incentive to become a forest pool trainer, on the other hand, is of a professional nature, as it is for Schneider. Among other things, the engineer trains executives and, as a systemic coach, wants to integrate forest bathing into his work in the future.

Professor Angela Schuh is convinced that in Germany, too, there will soon be not only preventive forest bathing but also explicit "forest therapies" as part of medical healing concepts.

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