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

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 really brings 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 .

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 a disturbed night’s sleep with fatigue and concentration problems during the day. ” 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,” explains Sandra Waeldin.

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 seems esoteric at first glance is, among experts, an undeniably effective method of relaxation. “Autogenic training is one of the best researched methods with a relaxing effect,” says Sandra Waeldin. 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.

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 (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) refers to the tingling sensation triggered by acoustic or visual stimuli. “Basically, they are imitations of all-natural sensory stimuli such as gentle touch or caress,” explains 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 has only recently begun. One thing is clear: relaxation through ASMR only works if you also feel the tingle that only some people can do.

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Controversial: Acupressure mats are currently the latest craze. Photo: Mitch Shark / Adobe Stock

Acupressure mats: Only the cool ones get into the garden, or rather, stick it out on an acupressure mat for a while. 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 “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 would be 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.

Mobile meditation: 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 completely different cultural circles not also work with modern media?” asks Georg Gahn, who remembers having participated in meditations on music cassettes, which at the time were “highly modern”, such as a teenager. “Guided meditations are a great way to start integrating meditation into your own life,” says naturopath Rauscher.

Proven method: Yoga definitely helps with relaxation.  Photo: InsideCreativeHouse / Adobe Stock

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Proven method: Yoga definitely helps with relaxation. Photo: InsideCreativeHouse / Adobe Stock

Yoga: 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 for relaxing body, soul and brain,” says neurologist Georg Gahn. This is confirmed by Sandra Waeldin, who refers to studies with promising effects of this kind of relaxation on 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.

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. This is thought to be due to terpenes, the ingredients in essential oils that come 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. Georg Gahn is in doubt as to whether the latter is really the case. Nevertheless, “being in the woods is definitely extremely good for body and mind”. There you are exposed to so many different sensory impressions that the brain is stimulated positively, which in turn gives positive emotions.

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

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