Nature + Mental Health
In honor of Earth Day, here’s the scoop on nature-based or ecotherapy, as well as some encouragement for incorporating it into your daily life.
Nature therapy is exactly what it sounds like – spending time in nature, using the things in nature to support your health. Going for walks, taking a hike, bird watching, and even a mindful stroll through the neighborhood are all examples of ecotherapy.
Time in nature (or “green time”) has been shown to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, and to reduce stress. Some studies have indicated that green time can improve attention and focus, encourage prosocial behaviors, calm senses, and even reduce recovery time following surgery.
Mindfulness is growing in popularity, and is a research supported addendum to therapy for anxiety, depression, and much more. In nature, we can often be pulled into being more mindful. Being present in the moment sometimes just happens when we’re in a natural environment where our senses are drawn into the here and now.
There is research to support ecotherapy’s efficacy in treating high stress levels, depression, mood regulation, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, dementia, and anxiety.
Here are some ideas for incorporating nature into your wellness and self-care:
Camping (Bonus – a camping trip lasting just 2 days where there isn’t all the usual buzz of electricity and you’re “roughing” it can help reset your body’s circadian rhythm if you’re struggling with sleep issues!)
Visiting your nearest state or national park
Bird watching (check out the Cornell lab’s eBird and Merlin Bird ID apps, they’re FREE!)
For those who are unable to get outdoors, have mobility issues, and other barriers to nature-time, watching videos and looking at pictures of nature help support the mind and body in much the same way that the outdoor time does. Using a sound machine or YouTube video of forest or other nature sounds can be helpful too!
What are some ways you include nature in your life? How does nature benefit you?