Eco Therapy

Nature Bathing for stress relief

Shinrin Yoku

Feeling a little run down? Feeling like work, personal relationships, day to day pressures are all squishing your brain and making the vein on your forehead pulse just a little too hard? Ecotherapy could be the solution for you.

The term is used to describe many different therapies, activities and treatments programs that are based outside, in nature. It is actively endorsed by UK charity MIND and even the Japanese and Korean governments where it is labeled ‘forest bathing’ or Shinrin Yoku.

What is ecotherapy?

It is thought that making a connection with nature in this way has several crucial health benefits. After all, we are all deeply connected with nature and getting outside in the elements is the most simple way of connecting with our earliest needs, desires, and distractions.

It’s suggested to help with mental health issues like anxiety and depression; while it can also help to prevent future episodes of those issues occurring.

Ecotherapy could be something as simple as taking a walk in the local park and letting the sunshine warm your face, or it could be something as extensive as den making and outdoor craft courses. Even psychologists are being taught ecotherapy practices now as a useful supplement to talking therapies.

Could ecotherapy benefit you? Let’s look further at the benefits and strategies of this helpful health aid.

The Benefits of Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy has what seems like endless benefits, so regardless of health issues you are facing, or stresses and strains you’re struggling with, it is likely you’ve something to gain from this nature-based therapy.

Here are a few of many benefits:

• Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin and helps you absorb calcium and strengthens your bones. Although we should get vitamin D from the sun, most of us don’t. With family lives, career demands and new anti-aging skin care products that act as a sunblock it is no surprise that recent reports suggest nearly 70% of the US is vitamin D deficient.

A key benefit of ecotherapy is the fact you are outside absorbing vitamin D. You can find out how long you need to be in the sun for vitamin D in this handy article from The Vitamin D Council.

• It Helps You Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the act of ‘being in the moment’. Not worrying about the past or the future, or even the present but rather, simply being in the present. When being truly in the moment you’re not crushed by the expectations or pressures of future or past events, reducing stress, anxiety and negative feelings.

A really good way to practice mindfulness is to be outdoors. You’re outside focusing on the trees, the animals, the insects, the weather – there’s a lot to bring you into the present moment.

If you want to understand more about mindfulness, begin by reading or listening to ‘The Power Of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. You will find the more you understand how it works, the more you will want to practice and become better at it.

• It Builds Your Connection With Nature

Modern technologies have us completely removed from where we came from nature. We’re all so obsessed with scrolling and swiping, liking and tweeting we have become disconnected from the very basics of our origins.

Ecotherapy helps us re-establish our connection with nature by immersing us in it. Amongst the trees, with our feet on the ground, fingers running across the grass, bark or even dipped into a cool spring. Turning your phone off and paying attention to the wonder of nature is basic, but extremely effective therapy.

• It Boosts Confidence

If you have felt unable to cope with everyday life because of stress, or deeper mental health issues, ecotherapy will provide an instant boost. Just going for a walk on your own might be a huge challenge to you, and so overcoming that challenge will boost confidence. Becoming more active, making positive changes for yourself and gaining new skills if you’re taking part in a course or classes outside will all contribute to a stronger sense of self-confidence.

• You Take In The Fresh Air

According to recent statistics, more than half of the population of the US lives amid unacceptable levels of air pollution. So it is no surprise most of us crave some fresh air from time to time, which is the perfect reason to indulge in some ecotherapy somewhere rich with clean air. Anywhere with lots of greenery is good, but forests are particularly great for fresh air. This is because trees filter the air and make it clean. Look for forms of lichen in the area you spend time in. It commonly looks like this:

It is used as in indicator of air quality as it tends to grow where the air is cleanest.

• It Boosts Physical Health

Keeping active helps to keep the body healthy. Just a walk will work muscles, boost your heart rate and strengthen bones.

• It Helps You Develop A Social Life

You can meet people through ecotherapy, whether that is in classes, or on guided nature walks. Meeting others with similar struggles or outlooks to you is a really great thing, and you’ll soon find you make new friends.

 

• It Helps With The Prevention And Management Of Mental Health Issues

According to a recent report, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. According to the same reports, nature-based activities are able to help with mental health issues, reducing depression, stress, and anxiety.

Activities and Techniques

There are an array of ways to access ecotherapy if you’re interested in gaining some of the many benefits that come with this health boosting group of activities.

Some activities are more solitary and individual, others are group based and more social. There are also activities, courses, and skills-learning sessions to take advantage of. 

A List of some of the main ecotherapy activities and techniques:

Adventure Therapy

You will usually take part in adventure therapy in a group of people. During adventure therapy, you will do things like abseiling, scrambling and rock climbing. These activities are designed to help you become more confident in your abilities.

Animal Interventions

Animal therapy could take place in a zoo, on a farm, or at an equine facility – anywhere there are animals. General activities might involve cleaning out the animals enclosures, petting them and caring for them in a relaxed way. An activity might be something as simple as stroking a dog. 

Ecotherapy

Specific ecotherapy is directed towards a connection with nature. Ecotherapy on your own could be planting herbs and vegetables in your garden, doing yoga outside, or taking a beach walk and collecting litter. An ecotherapy course may involve specific exercises to help you connect with nature in a way that benefits your mental and physical wellbeing.

Green Gyms

Green gyms focus on protecting natural habitats. Tasks are seasonal but you would typically be performing tasks like clearing woodland, litter picking, performing wildlife observation and possibly working on things like building bird watching huts, or cutting back overgrown spaces.

Animal Therapy

Animal therapy is more intense than an animal intervention and focuses on you bonding with the animal. You could complete this therapy on your own or with a group and you’ll be working closely with the animal throughout the therapy.

Farming

Farming could relate to plants, animals or even ground maintenance. Programmes could involve all kinds of activities from shearing sheep to maintaining a forest or harvesting plants and preparing food with them.

Green Movement

These types of activities specifically focus on moving outdoors. Running, guided wild swimming, running, cycling – the activity can suit your needs and your ability.

Ecotherapy Arts

You would enjoy arts and crafts outdoors perhaps painting the surrounding scenery, taking photographs of wildlife, sculpting outdoors with clay – expressing yourself in a relaxed and natural environment.

Gardening

On your own or in a group you would be enjoying activities like planting vegetables, digging soil, preparing plant beds, harvesting vegetables and possibly even selling produce.

Wilderness Ecotherapy

Wilderness ecotherapy revolves around hiking, building fires and shelters and working as a team to ‘survive’ in a wild environment. Courses are often in remote places and work to build your confidence and help you feel able to gain control back over hurdles in your life.

Check out these handy resources for more information about accessing ecotherapy in a way that is right for you:

"Spending time outdoors makes you feel great."
Read this full list of Ecotherapy benefits!

Wrapping Up

If you’re struggling with mental health, your first stop should always be your doctor. However, ecotherapy provides an excellent supplement to conventional strategies for coping with day to day stresses, struggles, and tribulations.

Whether you’re stressed, anxious or feeling totally overwhelmed with life, ecotherapy can provide an excellent option to help you regain control, confidence, and enjoyment of life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Turner

Paul Turner

Paul is the man behind TakeOutdoors.com where he shares all his knowledge and experiences about camping. TakeOutdoors.com is a website created to make better outdoor experiences for everyone. It's for the avid outdoor travelers who want to make the best out of their trip.

Looking to start camping? He’s got a comprehensive beginner guide to camping get you started.

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