In recent years, health professionals have reawakened to a powerful therapy with healing benefits for us all. Called Nature Therapy or Ecotherapy, the prescription is simple: get outside.
Spending time in nature on a regular basis can be as effective in treating depression as traditional psychotherapy or medication. Best of all, this form of treatment is free and readily available. In 2007, researchers at the University of Essex found that of a group of people suffering from depression, 90 percent reported greater self-esteem after a walk in a park, while almost three-quarters reported feeling less depressed. Just as exercise is medicine, so too is time in nature.
Here are five ways Nature Therapy can benefit your health and enhance your life:
- Emotional Well-Being
Do you feel happier, rejuvenated, and more relaxed after a walk or time in the garden? The Japanese call it “forest bathing” and believe time in nature is essential for a balanced life. I happen to agree! Several studies indicate that time spent outdoors reduces symptoms of depression while elevating mood. Not convinced? Try it and see for yourself.
- Unplug and Reconnect
Unplugging from our devices and the demands of we face every day to spend time outdoors helps us reconnect with the natural world and get in touch with ourselves in a way necessary to feel whole.
- Physical Health Benefits
Time spent in nature may lengthen our lives suggests a recent study. The same study notes that those who can easily access natural environments have fewer health concerns and report greater happiness and contentment. Regular interaction with nature reduces stress levels, which in turn can lower heart rate, and possibly the incidence of cardiovascular disease stroke. Enjoy exercise outdoors for even greater physical and mental health benefits.
- Improved Attention Span
A study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology determined that viewing a natural scene for less than a minute reduces mental fatigue and increases productivity in employees. If you find yourself with a reduced or declining attention span, try turning off the electronics and stepping outside more often.
- Natural Healing
Studies conclude that post-surgical patients with a view of nature heal faster than those without. These same patients also required fewer pain medications than those without a view of nature, suggesting a natural view may even promote healing.
Ready to see if Nature Therapy will leave you feeling happier and healthier? Though even a single walk offers benefits, try spending time outdoors every day for a week, taking in the scenery, interacting with nature, feeling the sun on your skin, listening to birds or running water, planting seeds, or simply sitting quietly on a bench in a park. At the end of the week, I think you’ll be convinced.