COME OUT FROM THE INSIDE TO BREATHE THE AIR … Stop stressing and get into some ecotherapy

July 30, 2021
By Tonya Bramlage

Did you know that the average American spends eleven hours per day on a screen and more than 90 percent of their lives indoors? The 1998 film “Hope Floats” highlights her character being admonished by her mother in the film to get up and go outside, “It’s a beautiful day out. Take a look at it. Get out there. Go and get the stink blow off of you.” The dramatic transition to an indoor, sedentary lifestyle has serious health consequences.

Research is now showing what mystics, poets and ecologists have known for a long time; mindful time in nature is profoundly good for our health.

As human beings the majority of our past history shows our species living very close to the Earth, the seasons, other creatures and the elements. It has been proven that immersing yourself in nature has a host of positive health benefits such as reducing anxiety and depression, lowering blood pressure, boosting self-esteem, increasing physical vitality, fighting disease, and nurturing an interpersonal sense of belonging. Whether in your backyard, down the street, or in the closest park, all of these profound positives of eco-therapy can easily be introduced and put into practice in our daily lives.

To say that things are stressful right now amongst the two-legged beings of this planet is an understatement. It has never been so important to stop … to take a breath … and to reconnect with where we came from.

Eco-therapy is an approach that rests on the idea that people have a deep connection to their environment and to the earth itself. Failure to nurture this connection can take a toll on your well-being, particularly your mental health. The consensus among experts remains compelling; spending time in nature has impactful and beneficial effects on every aspect of health and well-being. One need not “do” anything in order to reap the benefits of eco-therapy. By doing nothing and simply “being” is the ideal way to get in touch with yourself, others, the environment and the world at large.

Many eco-therapy practices focus on prioritizing and building a two-way relationship with nature by giving something back to the natural environment. Increasing numbers of both healthcare providers and mental health professionals are starting to recommend that people spend specific amounts of time each week visiting a park or pursuing certain other outdoor activities. Eco-therapy involves a plethora of loosely structured activities, such as walking along the beach, going for a hike in a forested area, although you can also choose to participate in more formal approaches. Some of the more common approaches include:

Community gardening or farming. Gardening with neighbors on shared land offers the chance to grow your own produce, build relationships, and spend time working outdoors.

• Wilderness or adventure therapy. This approach to mental health treatment teaches coping techniques and therapeutic skills while camping and hiking through the wilderness with others.

• Park prescriptions. Simply spending time outdoors where the sky and ocean are vast, endless things help to expand the mind and foster a feeling of expansiveness inside us.

• Forest bathing. Slightly more than a walk in the park, this practice encourages the mindful use of your five senses as you ramble through forests or similarly tree-heavy settings.

• Animal-assisted therapy. Petting, playing, or working with animals like horses, dogs, and birds outdoors offers another way to manage stress.

• Outdoor meditation and yoga. Yoga and meditation offer well-established benefits, but they might prove even more rewarding practiced outside.

Can you postulate on the primary draw of eco-therapy? The answer is two-fold; the cost is fairly inexpensive and it is easy to access nature, depending on your approach. “Earthing” is a form of bare foot walking that allows your feet to feel the ground and helps to dispel stagnant energies from your body and absorb fresh, vibrant energies of the Earth whether in your own backyard, down the street, or in a local park. Nature is the best aromatherapist. Sitting outside and breathing in the scents of nature that surround you, is a sure fire way to source smells your olfactory senses can pick up wafting gently in the air around you. How many birds can you spot, name, or newly discover? Go bird watching and see. If you are fortunate enough to live near the ocean or near a woodland of some kind you might like to get creative and go on the lookout for beautiful natural trinkets like feathers or seashells. You might like to collect them for an art project, or you might just like to keep a private collection for your own pleasure. The sky and the ocean are some of the most soothing and symbolic aspects of nature.

When you spend time in a natural environment, you are more likely to use your senses to experience your surroundings. Calming sounds, like birds chirping or the rustling of leaves, can help you detach from traffic, work conflict, and ordinary stressors of everyday life. Turning your attention toward the scenery can also help you practice focusing on the present instead of mentally cycling through worrisome thoughts. Through spending more time in nature, you might even unintentionally build a mindfulness habit, one where sitting in silence and doing nothing is precisely the point.