Modern medicine is a blessing to many. The various treatments that can be provided in clinical settings have saved countless lives. Ecotherapy is a holistic approach to wellness that is fully compatible with modern medicine and can complement any treatment plan.
Ecotherapy, also known as green therapy or nature therapy, is the integration of nature into a person’s treatment plan. Benefits of ecotherapy include:
- The possibility to customize therapy based on a person’s location, time constraints, and health conditions. Ecotherapy can work in the country or the city and in hot or cold climates. It can work for people confined to wheelchairs or beds.
- Cost-effectiveness. It can be done for free or very little cost.
- Compatibility with other forms of treatment.
- Effectiveness for a number of different conditions, including those related to physical health, mental health, and substance abuse disorders.
- Accommodation of different therapy environments. Some people have mental barriers to sitting in an office and spilling their deepest, darkest secrets, but feel more comfortable talking while taking a walk.
Ecotherapy can include a wide variety of activities. WebMD lists several types of Ecotherapy, a few examples of which include:
- Adventure therapy – rock climbing, rafting and other intense physical activities.
- Animal-based therapy – this could include the use of certified therapy animals or visiting a location like a farm to feed and pet animals.
- Arts and crafts – this could mean using plants in a craft or going out into a setting like a forest or field to create artwork.
- Conservation – working to preserve green spaces, while also enjoying them in person.
- Green Exercise – this involves a number of physical activities, like hiking, running or riding a bike in a natural setting.
- Therapeutic horticulture – gardening for the purpose of wellness.
What makes it therapy?
While spending time in nature is always good for the mind, body and spirit, ecotherapy is more than that. Ecotherapy activities must be:
- Overseen by a trained professional
- In a green environment
- Focused on nature exploration and/or appreciation
Why does it work?
“The Nature Cure,” published in The Atlantic, talks about how ecotherapy helps people feel better. Through one-on-one sessions with a therapist, group sessions, or independent work informed by the suggestions of a therapist, the natural environment can be used to practice grounding and meditation and develop gratitude. Studies have found that children with ADHD benefit from milder symptoms when they spend more time outside. We slow down when we go into nature (and ecotherapists require people to put away their phones during this time), and seeing trees and flowers has a positive impact on our moods.
Independent Nature Work
Can’t find or afford an ecotherapist? Nature is still healing even when experienced independently. Here are some suggestions for how to make your time in nature meaningful and healing:
- Sit outside and practice mindful breathing
- Walk on grass barefoot
- Sit under a tree
- Grow something – a full-fledged garden or just a potted plant
- Photograph nature
- Forage – be careful with this one, as some plants can be toxic. Some apps can help you identify which plants are safe to eat and which are not.
If you’re struggling with behavioral health issues like depression or anxiety, connection with nature can be a complement to professional treatment. At Highland Hospital, we are here to help you navigate your path to wellness. Contact us today to talk about your concerns and treatment options.