Have you ever been feeling down, unmotivated, stressed, and stepped outside and felt better? It’s no coincidence. The answer to many of our physical, emotional and mental lows can be found right beyond your door. Many doctors (mostly functional physicians) are finding that there are various benefits of ecotherapy and prescribing getting outside helps with improving our bodies and souls.
Ecotherapy is known as the practice of therapy that requires being outdoors and in nature. It is also known as nature therapy or green therapy. The word ecotherapy arose in 1992 when Professor Theodor Roszark used it in his book, The Voice of the Earth. Since that time, the subject of ecotherapy has risen in the academic world.
Several colleges and universities hold degree programs for ecotherapy now. While there is not a significant amount of research to support the idea that being outside can prevent, treat or cure issues, there is enough examples of it doing just that to make a reasonable connection.
Spending more time outside can bring the following benefits:
Multiple studies have shown the benefits of being in nature. A study shows that people who live in or near open, green spaces or nature areas have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Another study conducted by the University of Illinois connected lower levels of symptoms related to ADD and ADHD in children. And finally, a University of Essex study found that taking a walk outside reduced depression in 71% of the participants.
More functional physicians are prescribing ecotherapy to patients young and old, due to the main part that being outside usually involves some form of physical activity. This helps individuals either get into a healthier state or help to maintain a healthy state.
Gaining the benefits from ecotherapy is truly not difficult. You simply need to make time to get outside! Some ideas of things to do outside: go for a walk, hike, garden, kayak, canoe, rock climbing, and running. Keep in mind that the important aspect of ecotherapy is simply being outdoors and connecting natural elements with your inner self.
No matter what you are doing outside, be conscious of the fresh air you are breathing in, the wind or breeze blowing across your skin, the sounds that surround you (this is better if they’re sounds of nature, not human life). Make certain to acknowledge the colors that surround you. Look at the greens of the trees and grass, the vibrant colors of the flowers, the different textures such as the roughness of tree bark but the smoothness of a flower petal.
If most people are honest, they do not think much about things when they are outside. Oh, we might think how nice it was to get outside for a bit, but we do not purposefully engage all of our senses when we do so. Am I right? Think back to the last time you were outside. Unless something stood out to you, did you really pay much attention to the colors that you saw, the things you smelled, the things you felt? I know that I really did not think much about things when I went outside. However, since I begin studying the practice of ecotherapy, my experiences outside are so different.
Each trip outside brings something different even when I am in the same place. I now am very purposeful in slowing down and connecting with what is around me. Today, for example, on my walk I saw the bright white and yellow of the field daisies, I felt the sun actually warm my skin especially my toes (which must have been cold from being inside and I didn’t really notice) and somewhere in the distance I heard a woodpecker on a tree.
While walking, I first smelled someone burning something. It was the smell of burning trash. However, the wind shifted and then I smelled fresh cut grass. This is one of my favorite smells in the world and immediately took me back to my childhood living on the farm in Illinois! My walk tomorrow will be a whole new experience and I can’t wait!
As we move through this busy life of ours, take the time to connect with nature. God was very generous when he created it and Mother Nature never disappoints. Find several activities that fit your lifestyle and schedule. It is important to get outside and feel positive especially now when we have been isolating in our homes. Go outside and feel nature seep into your body, your mind and your soul.
Are you someone who is already taking advantage of the benefits of ecotherapy? If so, share your ideas of things to do. Maybe share where you live and suggest places to go in your area to be outside in nature. New to the idea of ecotherapy? Do some reading about it and then, with your new knowledge and perspective, get moving outside!
Now that we’re covered the benefits of stepping outside, let’s review these tips for a longer, healthier life!