We spend so much time looking at the world through computer screens and car windows as if we are living in a bubble that is separate from nature. We are nature, and to separate ourselves from the larger part of who we are is a source of many ailments. Being connected online, with family, with friends, is very important but being connected with the trees, local water sources, birds, the seasons, the stars is essential to a healthy body and mind.
Nature is often associated with exercise, which is an added benefit to our well-being. Whether it is a hike to a mountain-top to watch the sun set, or climbing a tree with a child, we are using our body, muscles, balance and this relieves stress. The aspect of adventure is also entwined with nature when we explore a forest, a canyon, or travel down a river in a boat. Imagination and awe are unavoidable while staring at the stars, or watching the clouds roll by. Understanding our place in nature, as well as the perspective of our finite planet in an endless galaxy of stars gives us meaning. The medical establishment is starting to catch on to this basic understanding that nature-lovers have always known.
Imagine having your doctor give you a “nature prescription” to help your body heal from post-cancer fatigue or obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes. Better yet, take a walk in nature to prevent getting ill in the first place.
The popular online site, Web MD states:
Scientists have long known that sunlight can ease depression, especially seasonal affective disorder (SAD). New research is expanding those findings. A 2007 study from the University of Essex in the U.K., for example, found that a walk in the country reduces depression in 71% of participants. The researchers found that as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation.
Ecotherapy was born out of the study of our psychological relations with the rest of nature which is called ‘ecopsychology’. This field of research provides a solid theoretical, cultural, and critical foundation for ecotherapeutic practice. The book Ecotherapy, Healing With Nature in Mind reflects on the works of writers like Theodore Roszak, Mary Gomes, Sarah Conn, Steven Aizenstat, and Ralph Metzner while offering a new harvest of contributions from David Orr, Richard Heinberg, Richard Louv, Bill McKibben, Joanna Macy, Larry Robinson, Malidoma Somé, and Shepherd Bliss.
This groundbreaking volume is a must read for therapists seeking guidance in navigating the new frontiers of ecopsychology, or for anyone who has ever wondered why we continue to abuse the planet even though we know better. Reaching a sustainable future means reinventing psychological healing as if the human–nature relationship matters–as it profoundly does. — Lester Brown, award-winning founder of the Earth Policy Institute
Hidden benefits to time in nature also include developing a deep sense of respect for the environment. Perhaps if everyone had this reverence for the land, we would take better care of it. Sustainable practices would become more common if the majority of us had a healthy connection with our local ecology.
The best part about ecotherapy is that it is free, and available wherever you are! The natural world has a way of seducing us if we open up, slow down and give ourselves time with it. Meditation isn’t limited to yoga, or sitting cross-legged and singing mantras, it is a state of mind that comes when we are relaxed, open, and reflective. Nature really is the best medicine!