With a lack of alternatives for leisure activities during the pandemic, many people discovered walking. However, even though the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions has made more activities possible again, it's still worth seeking peace and quiet in nature as much as possible.
"Studies have shown that a positive effect is felt after 20 minutes," said professor and physician Andreas Michalsen. The pulse slows down, blood pressure and stress levels drop, the immune system is stimulated. The parts of the brain responsible for relaxation and calm are supplied with blood.
The stress-reducing and vitalizing effect of nature has been proven by more than 100 studies, explained psychologist Anja Goeritz. "It's proven that being in nature has a positive effect," said the professor of business psychology. Alongside the physical effects, psychological issues such as anxiety and depression are also reduced.
It doesn't always have to be the perfect forest environment or an hourlong hike. "It's about getting involved with nature with our senses – for me, that means experiencing nature," said Michalsen. This can also include lying on the grass and looking at the clouds.
The sense of touch, for example hugging trees, is not critical for a positive effect, said the expert: "Probably 70% to 80% is what we see, the rest is fresh air and smells, as well as acoustic stimuli such as birdsong."
That is why it's worth being alone in nature, instead of talking loudly with a group or on the phone, advised Michalsen. Jogging through the forest with your eyes constantly on the smartwatch or listening to music is a plus in terms of exercise and boosting your cardio levels. However, a number of other important effects are ignored. "You experience fresh air, but miss out on a lot of other things," said Michalsen.
If you don't live in the countryside or can't find time to get outdoors on a regular basis, you can still benefit from the power of nature: "A view from the window or pictures of nature have an effect," said Anja Goeritz. In addition, current research shows that simulating nature via virtual reality promotes well-being.
Andreas Michalsen assumes that in addition to some potted plants, bioaromatic scents with natural essences or a chirping box that plays birdsong can also have positive effects on the mind and body. However, the professor still recommends getting outside as much as possible.
The more often, the better: Instead of booking a weeklong hiking holiday once a year, it's better to take smaller walks several times a week. Every time counts explained Michalsen. In his opinion, two and a half hours per week is the minimum.