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Forest bathing: rediscovering the forest

Forests do us good - we can feel it in our bones without actually knowing why that is.

Being surrounded by trees on a moss-covered floor bring us peace. It is as if the majesticness of the forest engulfs our beings and soothes us.

What does the research say?

In Japan, they call this feeling "Shinrin Yoku" - forest bathing.

This phenomenon has been studied there since the early 80s. Scientists have been trying to figure out what the positive physiological response is that most of us share when venturing into the forest.

A fascination that didn’t leave researchers in Germany and Austria disinterested as“Zeit Wissen” reports. In fact, several studies are being conducted in local forests, so that we can learn more about the wonderful response we get from trees.

In the book "The Biophilia Effect" by Clemens G. Arvay, for example, one learns that our immune system is able to "communicate" with the outside world, ergo with plants and trees, too Arvay suggests that forest bathing has the power to reduce stress and blood pressure, regulate heart rate and cortisol levels and promote the production of natural killer cells.

The New York Times also reports on these findings, but with a little more scepticism, acknowledging science still has some catching up to do on this subject.

Until such time, it’s probably not a bad idea to give in to our gut feeling of spending more time among trees. Did you know that studies have proven that merely looking at a picture of nature, of the outdoors and trees is enough to improve your blood values?

Step into Wild

So how can we put this theory into practice? How can we get more “tree time” in our day-to-day lives? We met with Angela Leser, a trained geomancer and forest coach, in a small forest right on the outskirts of downtown Cologne to learn more:

Why are we meeting Angela here and not in the office?

“Just take a look around you? Did you know that studies have proven that merely looking at a picture of nature, of the outdoors and trees, is enough to improve your blood values? So, why not go the whole hog and get the real thing? Even if it’s only on a tiny urban scale - it does the job - can you feel it?”

Our little excursion with Angela got us a little deeper into the heart of the things that are basically rooted all around us:

“Look there!” she continues. “As a geomancer, you learn to discover those special places that give off more energy by detecting a certain kind of texture, or a pattern of growth.”

It’s a whole new way of observing the magic of the forest. Filled with curiosity and awe, we examine the different variety of trees in the city park - how many branches do they have? In which direction do they all point? How does one tree bark differ from another? Which tree stand by itself? Why? How can we tell the difference between a maple and a beech?

Using these questions as a basis and with all her senses on high alert, Angela can find the best place withthe greatest source of inspiration.

She finds a wonderful nook that we both settle into and we let the forest do its magic. We drink in the moment. Enveloped by bird song, we allow the surrounding trees to bathe our skins with energy. Watching a family of ducks cross the river, we think they probably feel the same, letting the water caress their feathers.

It seemed that my kids, who were watching all this going on, also got into a weird kind of serene mood (which is definitely not like them) :)

How is this different from a simple walk in the forest?

After the experience we’ve had with Angela, we personally believe it’s about staying put in one place. It’s like, when you don’t move,you feel the sun burning your skin more - it’s the same energy, just in a more condensed form. This, combined with having all our senses open and accepting, has a profound effect. Definitely.

All hypothetical, of course, but it’s a great feeling all the same :)

What are your thoughts on forest bathing? What observations have you made when immersed in wild?


Run Wild - Anna, Ran and Team Wildling

Titelbild by Wimmelkinder

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