When the bustle of the city becomes too much, there’s nothing like a mountain hike or a drive out to the country to reconnect with the world around you and ground yourself. Many of us feel a sense of calm and relief when we’re in nature. It can reduce depression, anxiety, and other mental health ailments –which many of us are experiencing more than ever in 2020.
Finnish research studies suggest that just a 20-minute walk outside can improve your sense of well-being and boost your mood while reducing stress. Apparently, it’s due to the fact that natural landscapes positively affect our parasympathetic nervous systems.
Although it’s being dubbed as “Ecotherapy” a new wellness trend, being surrounded by nature, or active in green spaces, is something we’ve been doing for centuries to heal our minds and bodies. There’s just something about being immersed in the natural world, and while you can certainly do it on your own (especially during COVID-19), “Ecotherapy” has more of a distinct structure to it.
It’s usually therapist-led, and rather than focusing on outcomes, it focuses on completing an activity, such as gardening, horse-riding, or hiking. This activity always takes place outdoors and encourages interaction with the natural world, as well as the people around us.
If you’re not the most social person and prefer to do this on your own, we have plenty of suggestions! Completing an Ecotherapy activity can provide individuals with a sense of purpose and achievement, which is beneficial for mental health.
Start a community or backyard garden
Don’t have either? You can build a pallet garden on your balcony, or even organize some plants on a wall or area of your home that gets sun. Integrating these plant rituals regularly will increase your peace of mind, and eating fresh, healthy food from your own garden will harmonize you further with nature. Even if your garden isn’t edible, it’s proven that working with plants improves your mood.
Go on a challenging hike
A nature stroll is relaxing, but a hike through the forest is rejuvenating and makes you feel accomplished when you’re done. A little sweat never hurt anybody! Those endorphins combined with the enhanced oxygen in the green space around you will make you feel like you’re floating on air.
Nature meditation or yoga
If you have physical setbacks that don’t let you go for a challenging hike, try out meditating or bringing your yoga mat to the forest, beach, or whatever natural setting you prefer. Sit and let the natural sounds around you act as a soothing “white noise” before you head into your yoga or meditation practice.
Volunteering for a position that allows you to help conserve the environment (picking up litter, planting for a community effort, volunteering at an animal sanctuary/rehabilitation center, maintaining a park or lake) also counts as Ecotherapy. The feeling of giving back to your community combined with nature is a double-shot of happy!
At the end of the day, whether it’s more invigorating or relaxing, just being immersed in nature will deeply nourish your soul and give you a much-needed “reset” to face our complicated world.