Nature therapy seems to be the latest trend with people posting their daily nature walks during Covid-19 lockdown. There is a captivating biological pull that draws us towards nature, a reason why our minds feel clearer, our bodies lighter when we’re surrounded by trees, lakes, oceans, and the surrounding sounds of nature. We call this Ecotherapy.
Ecotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on interactions with nature to promote healing and happiness, sometimes referred to as ‘ecopsychology’. It’s nature as a means of therapy, a form of healing to free our minds from the busyness of life.
Ecotherapy is a great substitute for Facebook or LinkedIn addiction, those sites we tend to visit often during this pandemic while working from home. Why bathe in water when you can forest bathe?
Yes, it’s a thing.
The term ‘Forest bathing’ is a trend now popular across the globe, with the premise that walking in the forest, laying down and inhaling your surroundings, basking in the sounds of nature can enhance your wellbeing. Even playing a nature sound or observing images of nature can bring a sense of calm and reduce anxiety.
Our bodies adapt best to outdoor settings. This could be because naturally, our ancestors lived predominantly inside nature without the hustle and bustle of urban life. It was a simple life. No cars. No buildings. No noisy Construction, just whole communities adapting to the heartbeat of the landscape and seasonal cycles.
What is it about nature that brings a sense of calm and restoration to our minds? Today we push ourselves to the extreme comparing our achievements, working ourselves to death inside our busy, urbanised bubble. We see therapists. Read self-help books. At the same time, we are glued to our iPhone and binge-watch Netflix most nights, so it’s no wonder we feel so detached from nature and often struggle to calm our minds.
We’ve forgotten how our bodies were designed and they weren’t intended to live surrounded by bricks and mortar 24/7.
In a recent study in Japan, twelve male students were divided into two groups of six. One group walked through an urban environment; and sat observing the environment while the other group walked through a forest. The results were striking. Of those who sat and walked amongst nature: blood pressure and pulse rate dropped by 6% than those of their peers.
Hundreds of similar studies are conducted every year with similar results – lower cortisol levels, a drop in depression, reduced anxiety, enhanced memory – the benefits are worth it. Even a short walk per day can help focus and clear our minds when there is an overload of information.
How much nature do we need?
According to recent studies in Scientific Report, we need two hours each week to achieve the optimal benefits associated with ecotherapy. You don’t have to wake up before the crack of dawn each day, you just need to commit and plan your week to make it happen.
Practical tips for committing to nature therapy.
1. Research local nature reserves around your city and make a list of your top five.
2. Choose a day where you don’t normally work and allocate this time to visit these reserves. Choosing locations close to your home will ensure you’re not wasting your whole day off. Parents may need to choose times that allow for free time while a partner looks after the kids i.e early morning or afternoon. Alternatively, go with your partner and find a babysitter for the kids.
3. Make this a regular calendar meeting but allow for flexibility. No one wants to feel pressured to do a form of therapy, so be kind to yourself during busier weeks. If possible, avoid peak times/public holidays in busier national parks to maximise the solitude you need.