What the heck is ecotherapy?
To be honest, this is a discipline I am just beginning to learn about! I am not particularly outdoorsy myself. I’ve never been camping, and long hikes just make my allergies flare up. I always feel more inclined to hide in the comfort of a warm blanket and Netflix binge.
But I have to admit, even I feel a little better after a short walk or some time outside reading a book.
Why is that? Find out by reading this guest post by Trishna about the benefits of ecotherapy and how it originated. As I mentioned, this is all new to me, so I am very grateful that she was willing to share this with us.
Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with depression and anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.
Ecotherapy / Nature Therapy/ Green Therapy
Ecotherapy, also known as nature therapy or green therapy, is the applied practice of the emergent field of ecopsychology, which was developed by Theodore Roszak.
Ecotherapy, in many cases, stems from the belief that people are part of the web of life and that our psyches are not isolated or separate from our environment. Ecopsychology is informed by systems theory and provides individuals with an opportunity to explore their relationship with nature—an area that may be overlooked in many other types of psychotherapy.
While some professionals teach and practice ecopsychology exclusively, other mental health practitioners incorporate aspects of ecotherapy into their existing practices.
Connection with earth: the core of ecotherapy
Connection with the earth and its systems are at the core of ecotherapy. Many clinicians who practice ecotherapy believe that the earth has a self-righting capacity which operates through the complex systems of integrated balance, and that if people can harmonize with these systems, they may experience improved mental health.
Personal well-being and planetary well-being, as proposed in many tenets of ecotherapy, are not separate from each other. People’s lives are therefore seen as part of a greater system of interaction.
What is Ecotherapy?
Do you love hiking, backpacking, gardening or taking walks in beautiful places?
If so, you know how these help you relax, recharge and gain a broader perspective on life. You’ve felt the magic and inspiration from nature awakening all your senses and filling you with awe. The 25-year-old field of Ecotherapy explores how our relationship with nature is an essential and therapeutic part of our humanity.
It affirms that, to be truly healthy and whole, we need to live with the conscious awareness that we are connected with all of life: the waters, lands, air and creatures. Ecotherapy has ancient roots in indigenous people’s knowledge of the healing powers of nature and practices of honouring the Earth. Its modern roots are in the interface of ecology, environmental activism and psychology, to name a few.
Understanding ecotherapy further
Ecotherapy, also known as nature therapy or even green therapy, can be viewed as a union between the ideas of eco-psychology and psychotherapy. It refers to the kind of mental health work that puts our connection with the earth at the core of our psychological activities. In taking this approach, ecotherapy may help us to cope with the stresses and strains of daily life.
Ecotherapy is influenced partly by psychodynamic object relations theory, social systems theory, and the psychology of religion. Object relations theory tries to explain the way we relate to others. Social systems theory helps us to understand how we function not only in human systems but also within the greater multispecies systems. And the psychology of religion helps us understand how humans exist within the context of nature phenomena.
To build on this last perspective, in its exploration of how Homo sapiens bond with nature, ecotherapy is interested in the examples provided by a wide variety of ancient and contemporary native cultures. Thus, we can look at ecotherapy as a way of returning to our roots – the way our ancestors acted for thousands of years.
How to know if ecotherapy is a great fit for you
- Are you going through a major transition and need some grounding and clarity?
- Are you overwhelmed at work or home, and want rejuvenation, calm and peace?
- Do you enjoy clearing your mind and finding solutions to your problems outdoors?
- Have you always felt a sacredness in the natural world?
- Do you want to honour a rite of passage (marriage, birth, retirement or relationship ending)?
- Do you know that being in nature is healing and want more of it?
- Would you like to spend more time outside, but don’t quite know how to do that?
- Do you feel uncomfortable about going outside alone, and would like this to change?
- Do you want to heal from a traumatic outdoor experience?
Contact with nature
Our species has spent many millennia in relationships with the natural environment, but have only lived in urban ones for a few hundred years. We apparently have adapted well to urban living, and we all derive benefit from our much improved standards of life today, with its modern amenities and its almost unlimited possibilities.
But, though protecting ourselves from nature and the elements, and arranging ourselves in concrete jungles may be practical- and for many of us even desirable- it does not come without a cost.
While the costs are still being catalogued we clearly know that we love to get out into nature. What we are coming to know only lately is just how beneficial that contact is, and in how many ways.
There is plenty of evidence to show that regular contact with the natural environment enhances both physical health and mental wellbeing. The consistent message from intuitive good-sense and the research is that contact with green space improves psychological health and mental wellbeing.
- It reduces stress and improves the mood.
- It provides a restorative environment for people to relax, unwind and recharge their batteries.
- In walking groups and other outdoor activities connection with nature facilitates social contact and brings people together.
And something deeper is going on too. Any kind of contact with the natural world seems to help, from digging the allotment to weeding waste ground in city centres, and contact with animals. Informal groups are springing up everywhere with volunteers clearing the countryside, restoring canals and the like, and flash mobs descending on city waste ground to provide natural enclaves amid urban chaos.
How you can benefit from Ecotherapy
- Work in nature: take up gardening, farming, or a conservation project
- Experience nature: go for a walk, go camping, cycle through green spaces, swim in the sea, or look up our stories for ideas – Ecophiles is all about immersing yourself in nature!
- Spend time with animals: create habitats for birds and wildlife, go bird watching and animal spotting- but remember to never disturb them in their natural habitat
Nature heals us like nothing else
Ecotherapy offers simple yet powerful techniques that can easily fit into your daily routine to help lift your mood and boost your energy. Receiving an outdoor ecotherapy session in a beautiful setting helps you access a calm, well-resourced state of being. This can allow for deeper healing than indoor psychotherapy.
Many of us don’t have safe places to explore and express strong or vulnerable feelings, and they remain bottled up inside. Connecting with the wildness of nature helps us in experiencing our primal and authentic self, clarify what we most value, and gain the strength to speak from this truth.
Outdoor ecotherapy sessions offer a wider range of possibilities for embodying and expressing yourself. Imagine crying into the soft Earth and letting it hold your tears, or throwing a pinecone with all your might to release your anger. In nature, there are also countless opportunities for self-care.You can be held by the solidness of a strong tree trunk, or feel the joy in your body watching autumn leaves flutter to the ground. Share on twitter
Ecotherapy can work on alleviating different symptoms
- lifting depression
- releasing stress and anxiety
- stimulating the senses
- improving sleep
- reducing pain
- diminishing mental fatigue
- countering isolation
- lessening eating disorder symptoms
- strengthening the immune system
- enhancing mental and physical recuperation from surgery
- lessening post-traumatic stress
Ecotherapy reduces overwhelm
Modern life is very hectic, and many of us feel completely overwhelmed. This can make us feel self-critical, ineffective, and hopeless about ever being able to change our situation.
Mindfully connecting with nature, even in the midst of a city, is one of the best ways to reduce stress and overwhelm and dramatically shift your mental and emotional state. Even just a few minutes can help you feel calmer and more spacious, and allow you to return to your tasks with more focus and even creativity.
Ecotherapy takes advantage of the calming and balancing benefits of the human-nature relationship. From lowering blood pressure and pulse, to slowing our breathing and giving us increased mental clarity- it has been shown that the sounds and rhythms of the natural world are calming.
Water flowing in streams or birds chirping seems to naturally alleviate human stress and anxiety.
When in nature, mindfully focusing our awareness on the experience of the natural world around us is the best way to access these therapeutic benefits.
Being physically active causes our body to release endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals or “happy hormones” in our brains. People who run are already familiar with the “runner’s high.”
Eco-therapy to cope with stresses of life
Looking at the present state of the world, it is quite obvious that we are far removed from our original hunter-gatherer existence and have become increasingly alienated from the world of nature. The onset of the Cyber Age has added to this sense of alienation. The situation has worsened with the increasing urbanisation of the population.
But we need to recognise that human well-being and ecological well-being are closely intertwined. Increasingly, human action is contributing to our planet’s ecological deterioration. But, by relearning how to care for our natural environment, we can conquer the consequences of eco-stress – the inner deadness and self-alienation from the world.
Summary of how ecotherapy can help
- Improves physical and mental wellbeing through activities in nature
- Alleviates personal distress
- Immersion in greenery or vast landscapes can reduce depression, delinquency, addiction, etc
- Offers detox from harmful patterns and helps impulse control
- Builds confidence and self-esteem
- Helps you become more aware
Thank you so much Trishna for sharing this information about ecotherapy with us! I know we can all use a little relief right now in the uncertain world we’re living in. Give these tips a try, and make sure to follow Trishna!
About the Author
Trishna Patnaik, a BSC (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years now. After she had a professional stint in various reputable corporations, she realised that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion, that is painting.
Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, “It’s a road less traveled but a journey that I look forward to everyday.” Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India. Trishna is an art therapist and healer too. She works with clients on a one on one basis in Mumbai.
Trishna does fancy the art of creative writing and is dappling her hands in that too. She loves to soak in the experience and have an engagement with readers, wanderers, and thinkers.