Nature, Mental Health, and Ecotherapy

Nature, Mental Health, and Ecotherapy

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If you have found that you spend most of your time indoors, then you may like to know that your mental health may improve by going outside and spending time around nature. In fact, there is a type of therapy called ecotherapy that involves spending time in nature for the improvement of wellbeing. Check out BetterHelp to learn more about the benefits of different therapeutic techniques and to even find an online therapist.

Benefits of Nature

There is a growing body of research that indicates that there is a connection between the amount of time spent in nature and stress, anxiety, and depression. There is still no agreement on the reasons for the beneficial mental health effects, but studies on the brain activity after a walk outside in nature had positive changes when compared to those who walked in the city.

Interaction with nature may even have a positive effect. This means that just listening to nature sounds while you are inside may lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol. This can help to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Most of us work inside and do not have the time to spend hours of each day in the elements. However, it appears that it does not take much time outside to reap the beneficial effects. As little as two hours a week in nature may boost both mental and physical health. In fact, you may have a boost in your mood with just 5 minutes of outdoor exercise.

Types of Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy is the idea that people are connected to nature and the environment and that separating from nature can have negative effects on mental health and wellbeing. Going outside nurtures the natural connection we have with the earth and the environment.

There are different types of ecotherapy. They often involve activities spent outside in conjunction with a therapist or other mental health professional. Some approaches revolve around community aspects of nature as well.

One approach revolves around community gardening. The practice of gardening with other people can offer fulfillment and social interaction which can both be beneficial to mental health.

Adventure therapy can help to teach coping strategies to clients as they camp, hike, mountain climb, or do other activities while in nature. Some therapists will even tell their clients to spend more time outdoors to improve their mental health.

Forest bathing is another approach which encourages mindfulness in a forest setting. A lot of yoga and mindfulness groups meet outside in order to promote the connection with nature and the benefits that come with that connection.

Some ecotherapy techniques attempt to create a relationship with the environment by picking up trash, planting trees, or doing something else that benefits nature. This can help to promote fulfillment and purpose as well.

Ecotherapy Benefits

It is easy to get to nature, but what are the benefits of doing so. First, it offers more opportunity to talk and interact with other people which can be beneficial in a couple of ways. Not only is social interaction itself good for us but having a support system can be beneficial as well. This can help us avoid isolation and loneliness that often accompany mental illness.

Being outside can also help us exercise by providing motivation and make exercise seem less like a chore. Sometimes it can be difficult to have the motivation to go to the gym, but it can be fun to play a game of basketball or to run around outside with your child or even a pet. Just being outside in the sun can add to the great effects of exercise on our physical and mental health.

When we are outside in the environment, we are more likely to be mindful of our senses. There are also grounding, calming sounds in nature like the chirping of birds, the wind blowing through trees, or the sound of water splashing softly in a creek. This can help us leave behind the sights, smells, sounds, and frustrations that accompany the stressors of our everyday lives.

Conclusion

There are tons of ways to get back to nature and enjoy interaction with the environment. Planting some trees, flowers, or even produce can be fun and fulfilling. You can also take daily walks outdoors or just spend the evening outside watching the sun go down before bed. Doing anything you can to get outside and enjoy nature may help you improve your mental health and wellbeing.

Image Courtesy: theconversation.com

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