Nature therapy also called “ecotherapy' and “green therapy,” is gaining more attention in the worlds of researchers, nature lovers and those who are trying to reduce stress and ease the symptoms of depression.
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While being in and connected to nature has long been associated with calmness and peace, the scientific community has only begun examining the effects of immersing yourself outdoors fairly recently. As it turns out, they've discovered that green therapy offers some wonderful benefits in an inexpensive and easy manner.
Just as simple as it sounds, getting some green therapy usually just involves going out into a wooded, nature-filled area and taking a walk or even just sitting peacefully and enjoying the scents and sounds of the natural world. Gardening is also considered a form of this type of therapy and may be a really convenient option for those in urban areas.
However you do your nature therapy, the important thing is to do it regularly, and here are three proven reasons why you should add some green into your life to reduce stress, raise your energy and lift your mood.
1. It Reduces Stress In General
According to CRC Health, over 100 different studies have shown that recreation outside lowers your stress levels. In one such study, for example, people watched stressful accident videos and then either a nature video or some other content immediately afterwards.
The people who watched the nature video recovered from their experience faster than those who watched other types of content. Another study found that when a person has a view of nature, even if only from a window, they recover faster from surgery and experience more satisfaction at their work.
2. It Eases Symptoms Of Depression
Walking in nature can actually ease the symptoms of depression, naturally taking a load off your mind and easing stress. As reported by Medical News Daily, a study out of the University of Essex found that more than half of the participants had lower depression scores after taking a walk in nature.
This effect was compared against another group that took a walk through a shopping center instead. Less than half of the shopping center walkers had lower depression scores, and nearly a quarter of them ended up feeling more depressed.
Mind.org says that the depression-reducing benefits of nature therapy may come from a combination of three things: being around nature, social interaction and physical activity.
Nature is believed to be calming and can improve your sense of well-being, while physical activity carries its own set of body and mind health benefits. Social interaction is important because isolation can lower self-esteem and cause feelings of loneliness, making the symptoms of depression worse.
3. It Boosts Your Energy
Naturally, stress is draining, and this can become a vicious cycle. You're stressed out, so you're not resting well and you lack energy. Feeling listless makes it harder to get things done, so you fall behind and then stress out over that. Then, the cycle starts all over again.
Nature can actually boost your energy levels. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that just being outside for 20 minutes each day can raise energy. According to Web MD, the Prevention and Research Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore incorporates nature into the breast cancer recovery process to help with fatigue, a symptom experienced by about 30 to 40 percent of survivors after receiving treatment.
Doing It Yourself: Quick And Easy Tips
You can get the benefits of nature therapy on your own, even if you can't or don't want to join a formal group or program right now. Start by bringing nature right into your home. You can collect natural items, such as flowers, bark, feathers and leaves, and use them as home decorations and in projects.
Make a comfortable sitting spot in your home, where you're able to look at the sky or a nearby tree. If you love natural sounds, get some recordings of them and play them when you need a boost. Add nature into your daily activities, such as folding clothes by doing them in front of a window with a nature view. You can even put nature photos on your computer and mobile devices.
If you've never tried gardening, now is the time. A typical garden will take some time and money, so if you decide to go all out, start off slow and don't get frustrated if things don't go right all the time. Learning to garden takes patience, and you might make some mistakes along the way. For an easier introduction—or if you don't have yard space—get a window box, and plant some small plants like herbs and tomatoes.
For an easier introduction—or if you don't have yard space—get a window box, and plant some small plants like herbs and tomatoes. You can even help a neighbor who has a garden, if possible and share your spoils together. There may also be a community garden or planting project nearby that you can join, so check with your local community center to see if anything is available.
Fruit picking in the country or urban food foraging may be more your thing if you're not interested in gardening. Fruit picking is often available at local orchards and farms in the spring and fall, and the produce is usually priced cheaper than what you'd find in the store.
For urban foraging, look for wild berry bushes and fruit trees that are out there for the public to take from. Do remember to identify anything you pick before you eat it, as not all wild plants are safe to eat. If you're unable to identify something you've picked, try asking someone who is more experienced.
Last but not least, try to interject some nature into your daily life. For example, if you take a regular walk already, see if you can change the route so you pass a local park, river or other nature areas. Have a picnic lunch in the park near your work sometimes, instead of always staying in the office or going to the cafe next door.
If you do garden, make a spot so you can just sit and enjoy your hard work on occasion. Find a tree you like and spend just 10 minutes or so sitting under it, taking this time to clear your mind.
Try moving part of your normal exercise routine to the park or even your backyard. Ask friends or family members to take a nature walk with you if you don't want to go alone or just want to make it a mix of nature and social interaction.
Add some green therapy to your life today so you can boost your overall well-being and de-stress in the most natural of ways. Going green can do wonders for your body and your mind, so get out there and reconnect with nature! You'll be glad you did this simple thing.