Bathe in a lake of green trees

Bathe in a lake of green trees

Martin Kiem reveals why forest bathing reduces stress and why making a conscious effort to breath in the forest is actually not as easy as it sounds.

The air is perfumed with natural aroma of moss, rainwater and bark. The gentle breeze feels cool on the skin and with every conscious inhalation we come one step closer to nature, so that for a short time we become one with the environment.

These days, we are increasingly exposed to stress and time pressure. Our body and soul therefore need more relaxing breaks to promote proper balance. What better way than taking a bath in the forest? Yep, you read that correctly, a forest bath. Martin Kiem offers guided forest bathing in Parcines from April to October. As a coach and psychologist, he specialises in nature and forest therapy as well as meditation and mindfulness.

We met up with him for an interview:

Forest bathing is becoming evermore popular. Why?
Today, we humans are moving further and further away from nature. Over 50 percent of the world's population lives in cities, the average adult in the western world spends over 90 percent of his or her life in rooms and over ten hours a day in front of a screen. The way in which we structure our lives today means that we hardly have any interaction with nature at all. And yet in spite of these statistics, most people feel a strong innate desire to reconnect with nature.

What exactly is forest bathing?
Forest bathing is an attempt to connect with nature through various techniques and exercises and thereby reduce stress. Breathing in the forest atmosphere, known as “Shinrin-Yoku,” originated in Japan where local people frequently make use of such techniques.

How exactly should participants imagine a session of forest bathing with you?
When hiking, we pay attention to how many kilometres or metres of elevation gain we can walk per day. When bathing in the forest, exactly the opposite is the case. There is no goal that must be achieved. We don't rush through the forest. Instead, we walk very, very slowly. Sometimes only a few hundred metres, sometimes one kilometre. We sit down at a tree, and make a conscious effort to concentrate on our breathing and to relax body and soul. Studies show that we miss 60 to 70 percent of that which is around us because we are not attentive enough. When bathing in the forest, we make a concerted effort to breath and feel. The goal is to slow things down and to experience the moment more consciously.

What are the effects of forest bathing?
Regular or prolonged forest bathing has a long-lasting positive effect on the body and the mind. Forest bathing influences the release of cortisol and promotes the production of natural killer cells. Breathing in the messenger substances secreted by trees has a positive effect on both the immune and the hormonal systems. Notice as one’s outlook improves, the heartbeat slows down, sleep improves and one is generally more relaxed and concentrated. People with a lot on their mind may initially find it difficult to become calmer and to let the effects of forest bathing take effect. And yet even such people benefit with time.

A positive exercise similar to forest bathing: 

Find a nice spot in the woods and sit down next to a tree. Try to perceive the moment consciously. Concentrate and breathe in the fresh air deeply through your nose. Feel the air filling your stomach and notices how your breath provides you with fresh energy. Slowly breathe out through your mouth and repeat this exercise several times.

Book tip: "Wald tut gut" (Forest is good for you) – reduce stress, improve wellbeing and health, by Martin Kiem and Karin Greiner. (Only available in German)
Forest bathing in Parcines
Forest bathing in Parcines
Slow things down & profit from new energy
Gsund bleibm! Salute! Take care!
Gsund bleibm! Salute! Take care!
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