Since ancient times, humans have counted on nature’s bounty to feed and sustain them through the years. In those bygone days, man spent a great deal of the day being outside under the warm sunshine growing crops or hunting animals and whatnot. Ecotherapy for Mental Health is a top therapy in North Carolina.
Today, most people spend the majority of their time inside. Some mental health experts believe that nature can have a healing property, and many psychologists think that nature may improve mental health and well-being at times. Read on for one Raleigh based psychiatrist’s views on ecotherapy and the potential healing benefits of nature therapy.
What Exactly Is Ecotherapy & Who Invented It?
Ecotherapy despite its unusual name is a valid form of therapy for many people. Other names for this therapeutic process include green therapy, nature therapy, or earth-based therapy.
This form of therapy was first named by Theodore Roszak. He was a distinguished American academic who wrote an in-depth book about the 1960’s counterculture that arose during the Vietnam War era. That time is perhaps best depicted at Woodstock which was a rock-and-roll music concert that drew more than 400,000 people who were mostly known as the hippies. They gathered there on a farmer’s field camping out under-the-stars for several days.
The Polish-American Roszak was first known as an abstract expressionist artist who dabbled in painting, sculptures, drawing and more. He then became a novelist and continued his studies in logic and philosophy eventually becoming Professor Emeritus of History at California State University.
Understanding the Basics of Ecotherapy Principles
Roszak was not the first to link the earth and all its ecosystems with the human mind or psyche. This was often termed a “back to nature” kind of movement. In essence, ecotherapy surmises that the human psyche is not separate from our earthly environment. This connection with the earth and its systems is the basis of this therapy. Roszak and others believe that when humans harmonize with these forces that their mental and/or emotional health may improve as well.
The Science Behind the Healing Benefits of Nature Therapy
Although some may view this therapy as a rather far-flung hippie-era concept, it should be noted that in many Eastern Asian societies, this concept was understood to be logical and true for many centuries before Western civilizations formed their own philosophies and evidence of scientific-backed healthcare treatments.
In the last decade, more mainstream healthcare professionals are now open or actively embrace many of these older views on life and health relating to nature.
In a research study from 2007, researchers monitored people who were clinically depressed as they walked through a beautiful country park. The results showed that more than 90% of the group indicated higher levels of self-esteem following the walk and up to three-quarters of that group claimed to feel less depression.
As far as nature’s impact on mental health or health in general, there is evidence that lowered exposure to natural sunlight decreases a person’s Vitamin D and often leads to feelings of sadness or depression termed often called Winter Blues. There are special “happy or therapeutic lights” that can give off this necessary light therapy potentially lessening feelings of depression.
Exercise Outdoors Helps Our Bodies Release the “Feel-Good” Endorphins
Getting outdoors in the fresh air to walk or exercise prompts the body to release endorphins into the bloodstream. Additionally, endorphins are what make us feel balanced, happy, and just better overall. Many antidepressants to treat depression work on this same model.
Tips for Unleashing the Healing Benefits of Nature Therapy
Ecotherapy for Mental Health is an essential way of treating mental health. Ecotherapy in a nutshell is just communing more with nature. In a therapeutic setting, this type of nature therapy may be done with yoga, meditation, or another calming self-awareness method. Also, this has been shown to decrease anxiety and can promote deeper relaxation and may give health benefits too. Often, Nature Therapy is combined with medications, talk therapy, and other helpful therapeutic measures.
Some nature therapy ideas include:
- Going for a walk outside in a park or other nature setting
- Gardening or admiring a beautiful garden
- Taking a sunrise yoga class outdoors
- Bring live plants inside
- Taking walks along the beach or soft grass barefoot
- Doing simple self-awareness breathing exercises on a patio, balcony or porch
- Lighting a scented candle that smells like evergreen, flowers, fresh-cut grass or tropical coconut and mango
- Use a Happy Light during winter
- Display driftwood, seashells or stones
- Take a beautiful scenic ride
- Watch the sunrise and/or sunset
- Walk in the rain & jump in puddles
- Make mud pies with young kids/grandbabies
Lastly, learn more about Ecotherapy for Mental Health by contacting MedPsych Integrated in Briar Creek.