Ecotherapy: The basics
Ecotherapy is the experience of healing through a connection with the earth and nature. There are other terms and words used to describe healing with nature. Green therapy, forest bathing—also known as shinrin-yoku in Japan. Ecopsychology, and nature therapy all use the same principles of interacting and connecting with nature as a means to heal mind and body.
Connecting with nature as a means of healing has been practiced since ancient times. Western medicine has only recently begun to embrace returning to nature as a complementary form of treatment for various conditions.
What are the Benefits of Ecotherapy?
Ecotherapy provides an escape from the physical and mental effects of our modern world and its technology. Studies show evidence of lowered heart rate and improvement in blood pressure. There are also studies showing lowered cortisol levels when humans spend time immersed in nature.
Anxiety and stress are reduced with green therapy. Mood and self-esteem are elevated and symptoms of mild to moderate depression are also lowered. For these reasons, ecotherapy seems to be embraced eagerly by mental health professionals. More and more of us are escaping to the woods, camping and glamping holidays are on the rise!
How does one ‘do’ ecotherapy? It’s actually quite simple. In fact, you will have probably practised ecotherapy on some level without even knowing it!
All those times you’ve gone for some fresh air, or a walk to clear your head? It’s all a part of the healing powers of nature and the great outdoors. But if you need more of an idea you could try some of the following suggestions.
- Find yourself a wooded area
- A garden
- A beach
- Hiking trail
- Bike path
Head for natural areas and surroundings. Spend time in this area being mindful of your senses while you are immersed in this natural environment.
Working in the outdoors such as on a farm or in a garden has benefits from a green therapy standpoint.
Ecotherapy as part of a care plan
Ecotherapy can be done alone or in a group. You can supplement talk therapy or counselling with ecotherapy. If you’re under the care of a physician or psychiatrist for a chronic medical condition, discuss adding ecotherapy to your treatment plan.
From an ecotherapy standpoint, sitting quietly in a wooded area is as beneficial as walking through nature. You will obviously receive even more benefits from the cardiovascular effort of walking if you choose to keep moving while practising ecotherapy.
Use each of your senses to experience nature. Smell the essential oils of the pines in the forest, the scent of the blooms of wildflowers or the earthy scent of the decaying leaves along the trail.
Listen to the sound of the birds’ songs, the rustle of leaves and branches and the sounds of your footsteps on the earth. Be aware of the sense of touch—even if it’s to be aware of the air on your body and your skin as you move through space.
Visually take in the splendor and color of the vegetation, the texture of the tree bark, the blue of the sky and the white of the clouds above.
While you are mindfully experiencing nature with all of your senses, you are making your anxieties, stress and worries secondary. These stressors melt into the background, as your mind stays focused on the senses you are experiencing moment to moment. Consider this a walking mindful meditation.
Regular and Repeated Doses for Maximum Benefits
To fully experience the benefits of ecotherapy, regular immersion in nature is recommended. While any time spent in nature is beneficial, best results come from consistently repeating your exposure to the outdoors.
The beauty of this healing practice is that there is not a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way to immerse yourself in nature and experience ecotherapy. The only ‘wrong’ way is to never spend time outdoors bathed in the glory of Mother Nature.
You can make your ecotherapy experience a part of your routine. A morning walk with the dog to the local woods, a weekly family stroll after your Sunday lunch or tending to a garden a couple of times a week.
Ecotherapy is not complicated, its a pleasure! Once you make time for frequent moments spent in nature you will reap the benefits.
Do enjoy time out in nature? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
For lots more information about Ecotherapy, check out this link!
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