What forest bathing, yoga and co. is really good for

One with nature: Whether forest bathing really provides relaxation is unclear. But it is undisputed that staying in nature has a very positive effect.

Photo: oneinchpunch / Adobe Stock

War, climate change and pandemics – the world is not currently a place that invites inner peace.

There are also private stressors: Commitments in relation to work, family, care or even leisure activities contribute to many no longer being able to relax.

According to the latest stress study from Techniker Krankenkasse, about a quarter of the population in Germany is often under stress, and two thirds sometimes feel stressed. Rising trend.

The result: back pain, headaches, stomach problems and increasingly mental problems. Many methods and products promise a solution to the constant voltage. But which of them brings true relaxation?

We have asked people who know about the subject, including Georg Gahn, director of the Department of Neurology at the Municipal Clinic in Karlsruhe, psychologist Sandra Waeldin, who has a doctorate in stress and runs a practice for stress management in Karlsruhe, and Franca Rauscher, state chairman of the German Naturopathic Association .

Keep your hands off your mobile phone: digital detox

Download a book on Saturday and not the tablet, ban cell phones in the bedroom: “digital detox” means digital detoxification, which is achieved by doing without digital media for periods or in certain rooms.

“A break from the media can be very beneficial,” says non-physician Franca Rauscher. The pressure of having to be available all the time is the trigger for strong stress reactions. “Digital-free times create space and time for analog alternatives to be rediscovered”.

Neurologist Georg Gahn quotes a medical argument in favor of the method: “The blue light component on smartphone screens ‘plays’ to our brain that it is still day. This inhibits the release of melatonin, which promotes sleep. This leads to disturbed sleep at night with fatigue and difficulty concentrating during the day. ”

So a clear recommendation for “Digital Detox”? “Maybe it does not have to be complete abstinence, but a clearly reflected approach is essential for relaxation and healthy sleep,” says psychologist Sandra Waeldin.

Hypnosis for the ego: autogenic training

To hypnotize yourself – this is basically what you learn when you try autogenic training. The relaxation process is based on autosuggestion, the ability to train your subconscious to believe in something specific. In this way, bodily functions that are actually involuntary, such as heartbeat or hormone release, should be able to be affected at will.

What at first glance seems esoteric is among the experts a completely undisputed effective relaxation method. “Autogenic training is one of the best-studied methods with a relaxing effect,” says psychologist Sandra Waeldin, who herself offers autogenic training in her practice.

In addition, it improves sleep quality, well-being, supports pain management and reduces anxiety. “Autogenic training can be used independently after brief instruction from a therapist,” Rauscher adds. If necessary, one could then give oneself a retreat from the outside world. “The chance of self-healing increases.”

The comforting point: What is ASMR?

If you do not know what ASMR is, just enter the term on video platforms like YouTube and thousands and thousands of videos will be spit out. In it, people speak softly into microphones or rub their hands together – all just to cause a tingling sensation on the skin of their viewers, which moves from the back of the head down to the back and by many people seems to be comfortable and extremely relaxing.

ASMR (short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) describes the tingling sensation triggered by acoustic or visual stimuli. “Basically, they are imitations of all-natural sensory stimuli such as gentle touch or strokes,” explains neurologist Georg Gahn.

The question remains: is ASMR a legitimate relaxation technique? “So far, there have been only isolated finds,” says Sandra Waeldin. Research into it only started a short time ago. One thing is clear: relaxation through ASMR only works if you also feel the tingle that only some people can do. The method is unsuitable for everyone else.

For the fakir feeling: acupressure mats

Pixie: targeted acupressure mats.

Photo: Mitch Shark / Adobe Stock

Only the cool ones come in the garden, or rather: endure it a bit on a so-called acupressure mat. The mats, the surface of which is covered with hundreds of sharp, hard plastic knobs, resemble the nail boards worn by yogis and fakirs from earlier times – and are in the forefront today.

Manufacturers like the famous “ShaktiMat” promise that acupressure mats – not to be confused with acupuncture – not only provide their users with relief from back pain and tension, but also actively combat stress. In addition, blood circulation and the production of endorphins are stimulated. “These mats lead to sensory stimuli via pressure,” says doctor Georg Gahn, “as I understand it, the principle of a massage is imitated.”

The relaxing benefit: uncertain. “So far, there have been few results on this,” agrees psychologist Sandra Waeldin. Especially since the safety of the mats has not been thoroughly investigated. “A study reported pain in participants in the first few minutes on the mat.”

Say “About”: Meditation for mobile

Meditation should lift the mood, improve the handling of one’s own emotions, increase the ability to concentrate and make thinking clearer. It is undisputed that this is good and useful for relaxation.

“Many people experience a constant stream of thoughts that cannot be reduced at all. Meditation is a significant help and support here, ”explains non-physician Franca Rauscher. There are tons of apps these days that offer guided meditations. They are called Calm, Headspace, 7 Mind or Serenity and they all give good promises when it comes to relaxation.

According to experts, one does not have to believe them all. Nevertheless: “Why should an ancient technique used in vastly different cultures not also work with modern media?” asks Georg Gahn, who remembers himself meditating on music cassettes that were “high modern” at the time. “Guided meditations are a great way to start integrating mediation into your own life,” says non-physician Franca Rauscher.

Very trendy: weighted rugs

Some people swear by it: duvets that weigh four to over ten kilos and should bring calm and relaxation. Particularly stressed people or those suffering from anxiety disorders are helped by the blankets’ deep pressure on muscles and joints to calm down in the evening and to fall asleep better.

But what about the sleeping weights? Clinic manager Georg Gahn is neutral: “Pleasant sensory perceptions can have an anti-anxiety effect, for example when listening to beautiful music, when being ironed or smelling pleasant scents. Heavy duvets should provide a sense of security through their weight.

It is not scientifically proven, but one can imagine that it can have a relaxing effect. “Psychologist Sandra Waeldin looks somewhat more critically at the weighted blankets:” Especially when it comes to anxiety, I would rather choose methods of self-regulation without aids. “

With the cobra at rest: yoga

In position: Yoga has many disciples.

Photo: InsideCreativeHouse / Adobe Stock

According to experts, anyone who starts the day with a sun salutation or practices one of the many other yoga exercises and postures is certainly not doing anything wrong. As long as he knows about it, of course.

“Yoga is definitely part of the proven standard repertoire to relax body, soul and brain,” says neurologist and clinic director Georg Gahn. This is confirmed by psychologist Sandra Waeldin, who refers to an increasing number of studies with promising effects of this kind of relaxation for psychological effects.

“Yoga is a mixture of breathing and movement combined with meditation. Balance and mobility are improved, and there is a relaxing effect, ”explains Franca Rauscher. According to the naturopath, people who practice yoga regularly experience a positive effect on their perception of stress.

As a result, in their experience, positive effects on pain or sleep problems can often be observed. This also increases self-confidence and self-esteem.

Let nature do the trick: forest bathing

In Japan, there is no discussion about whether forest bathing makes sense. “Shinrin Yoku” has long been a recognized form of therapy, which is said to have extremely positive effects on body and mind.

It is believed that this is due to terpenes, the ingredients in essential oils derived from bark and leaves. If a person absorbs them through the skin and lungs, the sympathetic nervous system, part of the autonomic nervous system, calms down. Neurologist Georg Gahn is in doubt as to whether the latter is really the case. Still, “being in the woods is definitely good for mind and body,” he says.

There you are exposed to so many different sensory impressions that the brain is stimulated positively, which in turn gives positive emotions.

Psychologist Waeldin finds the benefits of forest bathing difficult to assess due to the different methods. However, the combination of exercise, nature and social contacts can be “absolutely recommended”.

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