Just five minutes is enough
The rustle of the leaves of the trees, the murmur of the streams, the scent of the bushes, the silence and the feeling of being alone - all this enchants during a visit to the forest. The body reacts immediately to the positive effects of the woods. Even after a walk of just five minutes, a measurable change is noticeable.
The environmental psychologist Renate Cervinka from the University of Vienna has researched the effect of the forest together with colleagues. She has proven that the forest is good for the body and thus also for the soul. The heart beats measurably calmer after a stay in the forest, the pulse and blood pressure fall, the muscles relax. That it needs only few minutes for it, could be found out by the researcher Jo Barton of the Unversity OF Essex. Negative feelings, tension and anxiety disappear. Instead, anticipation and positive feelings become more important. Five minutes outside in the fresh air are enough for this, it is not even necessary to hike for hours through the forest for this.
Mood and self-esteem show psychologists how a person's health is doing. The feeling of happiness is influenced and the ability to deal with stressful situations is increased.
All people benefit from an outing in nature. However, studies have shown that in younger people, self-esteem in particular increased. In middle-aged adults, on the other hand, mood was positively influenced.
It doesn't matter if we spend those five minutes in the garden, going for a walk or fishing. The most important thing is that we are in the fresh air and surrounded by nature. Self-esteem increases and people who suffer from chronic stress relax.
However, this positive effect of nature is greatest when time is spent close to water. Psychologist Renate Cervinka has therefore recorded the babbling of a forest stream with her smartphone. As often as she can, she is in the nearby vineyards, in the forest and in nature. Especially when she is under a lot of pressure. For times of peak stress, she now always has the babbling brook ready via smartphone at home as well. She then listens to it, and can use it to get her stress levels under control. It's canned relaxation, so to speak.
The power of trees
Germans love their forest. It is a place of longing, of secrets, of fairy tales and stories. The forester Peter Wohlleben wrote a book about the forest in 2015 - "The Secret Life of Trees". It was #1 for months after its release, and his book about the social behavior of trees became a bestseller. Peter Wohlleben explains here his amazing observations, which show that trees regard their offshoots as children and shepherd them. Trees also warn each other in case of danger. Trees are alive and apparently even have feelings! Plant lovers have always suspected this, Wohlleben's bestseller seems to provide the final proof.
But trees not only have an interesting interaction with each other, they also have a direct influence on us. As early as 1984, health scientist Roger Ulrich observed for a study that patients recovered faster after gallbladder surgery if there was a tree outside the window. The greenery of the trees made the wounds heal faster. They also needed less pain medication. So it is undisputed that trees not only strengthen the soul, but also the body.
In Japan, a researcher came to similar conclusions. For his analysis, the physician Qing Li compared the health data of all people living in Japan. He found that people living in forested areas died of cancer less frequently than everyone else. He had already taken into account all other factors that increase the risk of death.
In addition, Marc Berman from the University of Chicago published an interesting study in the renowned scientific journal "Nature" in 2015. He had compared the tree density within the major city of Toronto with the health data of the residents. His finding: the risk of cardiovascular disease decreased the more trees grew in a neighborhood. Just ten additional trees around a block statistically make the residents seven years younger.
The positive health effects of trees seem magical. Yet it's all relatively simple to explain. The trees do indeed inspire our soul and imagination with their beautiful appearance - but their health effects have a scientific explanation.
Spending a day in a forest increases the number of killer cells in your body. The number in the blood increases by 50 percent. Killer cells seem dangerous, but they are essential for our health. They are parts of our immune system and recognize diseased or infected body cells. The killer cells then ensure that these diseased cells are killed. The growth of the killer cells is stimulated by phytoncytes. These are substances that trees produce as a defense mechanism against tree pests. If you are under trees, you get some of the tree phytoncydes and thus strengthen your own killer cells.
If you take advantage of the opportunity and get plenty of exercise in the woods, you will become healthier in many areas. Because exercise also has a decidedly positive effect, of course. The German landscape sociologist Rainer Brämer from the University of Marburg is convinced that regular hiking can replace a visit to the doctor. In his view, hiking is also prevention and therapy for almost all known diseases of civilization.
Nature always relaxes
Therefore, those who have no forest far and wide need not be afraid. Researchers have proven that nature is always good for you. That's why spending time in the garden or on the beach is also healthy - it really doesn't always have to be a walk in the woods! A trip to nature, on the other hand, is especially important for city dwellers and should be part of their normal daily routine. Psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan have developed the so-called "Attention Restoration Theory". According to this theory, city dwellers are constantly overstressed due to stimulus overload. The body has to filter out sounds that are not important. The ears of city dwellers are exposed to a constant background of noise, and most of them don't even notice it. There are cars driving, construction going on in the street, horns honking, police sirens blaring in the background, music playing somewhere, and people talking loudly nearby. The brain now has to filter what is important and what is unimportant.
This constant work of the brain can lead to fatigue and even exhaustion.
In the nature is then finally "broadcasting break". Man listens to the rustling of the trees, the chirping of the birds or just hears mysterious silence and just watches the clouds. The brain can finally recover from the constant overstimulation.
It depends on the personality, who relaxes best where in nature. Forest, sea, beach, mountains, heath or maybe even the desert? There are very many possibilities and each person is really happy somewhere else. Each area has its own charm and depending on personality we relax best in the forest, in the mountains or by the sea.
The Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh said, "If you really love nature, you will find it beautiful everywhere." He was right about that, but the effect is still different.
Researchers from the American University of Virginia, led by Shigehiro Oisho, have found that there is a general difference between introverted and extroverted personalities. Extroverts feel most comfortable on wide beaches and by the sea, while introverts are happier in the mountains because they feel more protected there and can, in principle, always withdraw into themselves. The wide beach with its view of the sea, on the other hand, reflects the open soul of extroverts.
That's why it's generally always good to live in a landscape that also suits your personality. Finnish researcher Markus Jokela from the University of Helsinki compared 56,000 English people with their place of residence. He drew parallels between the character of the place of residence and the person. When the place of residence and personality matched, the people concerned were a lot happier!
That's why a vacation in nature makes us so happy. Not only because we can leave everyday life behind us, but also because the brain can recover from the overstimulation, and because - with the right choice of vacation spot - people also find themselves exactly where they subconsciously feel most at home.
Just five minutes is enough