“Relax!” – There is probably no person who has ever relaxed after hearing this statement. Rather, quite the opposite. But what really relaxes the body and mind? In today’s fast-paced world, with what feels like non-stop stress in both professional and private contexts, it’s not so easy to always get through everyday life relaxed. It is, therefore, all the more important to switch off regularly and to really come to rest. From a scientific point of view, nature plays an important role in this. But why is that so?
Nature and science
Scientists have been dealing with the question of how nature affects the psyche of us humans for decades. The answer is always the same: nature is good for us. Numerous studies have measured how, for example, the stress hormone cortisol, blood pressure, and pulse rate drop when we spend a certain amount of time in nature. In some cases, 20-30 minutes are enough to reduce stress, improve concentration and lift the mood. According to the findings of the two renowned psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan from the University of Michigan, “everyday distance” plays a fundamental role in relaxation. We can only really relax when we have a certain distance from our everyday routine. This place of escape does not necessarily have to be far away; it can also be the park in front of the house of the forest nearby.
Nature and the importance of the forest
Forest bathing, also called Shinrin Yoku in Japanese, is becoming increasingly popular in the Western world as well. The forest has a positive influence on our nervous, immune, and hormonal systems. You consciously enter the quiet atmosphere of the forest, you smell the gentle scent of fresh greenery and you ground yourself noticeably. You feel the soft forest floor under your feet, lean against a strong tree full of serenity and absorb all the power and energy of nature.
The connection with nature is immediately noticeable and body and mind can completely let go and relax. Read more about forest bathing in the Travitude article “Shinrin Yoku – The forest as an oasis of well-being“.
Nature and its sounds
Soothing ocean sounds, relaxing birdsong, or the rustling of a leafy tree – these sounds not only bring back memories, but in some cases, you could spend hours just sitting, listening, and gazing into the distance. Studies show that, unlike artificial sounds, these natural sounds lower stress levels and improve attention. According to neurobiologist Henning Beck, this affects the basic attitude network in the brain, which is activated whenever we relax and let our thoughts run. Thus, pleasant sounds of nature have 3 positive effects at once: Relaxation improved attention and letting thoughts run.
Nature and the children
Swiss environmental psychologist Nicole Bauer emphasizes that childhood experiences play an important role in the impact of nature. The more often you were in the forest as a child, the better you can relax in it as an adult. It not only brings back memories but also conveys positive feelings and has an influence on the environment in which we feel comfortable. And well-being promotes relaxation, no matter what age.
Nature and vacation
Just let your mind wander, listen to the sound of the sea or lie on freshly mown alpine meadows. It seems clear that we want to relax on vacation. But we have learned in this article that we should not underestimate the aspect of the environment and the location. It does not always have to go halfway around the world to get away from everyday stress. On your next vacation, pay attention to the nature around your accommodation, are there beautiful retreats in nature to relax?