Learn how you can use ecotherapy in your treatment and daily life
I frequently tell clients how fresh air can be relaxing and beneficial for mental health, and many will agree how much better they feel when the weather begins to get warmer and the sun stays out longer. But what is it exactly about being outside that makes us feel so good?
The act of using nature as a therapy aid actually has a name, ecotherapy. While ecotherapy may sound like a newer term, horticultural therapy (gardening and plant-based activities led by a therapist) was used as a form of therapy as early as the 1800s. Horticultural therapy helps to increase focus and encourages attention moment to moment while gardening. It helps clients to accept their feelings in the present moment and can aid in being more in tune with their bodies.
Ecotherapy can be helpful for all ages, even for children being in nature can act as a buffer against stress. According to a study, children who experience ecotherapy may actually gain an increase in self-control, a deepening of their concept of nature, an increased sense of pride and accomplishment, and an increase in care-taking and nurturing behavior. Don’t have a lot of time or access to nature? No problem! Ecotherapy can be experienced even indoors. Using four senses, sight, hearing, touch, and smell, active interaction with indoor plants can have positive effects on the human stress response.
Another valuable aspect of ecotherapy is reciprocity– the two-way relationship between us and nature. Whether this act is done by collecting trash, composting, recycling, or planting trees, it can reduce feelings of eco-anxiety, anxiety that can be caused by fear related to environmental damage.
Ways to Practice Ecotherapy
How exactly can you go about practicing ecotherapy? These are just a few activities that can be done in a structured approach with a therapist, or in less formal approaches by yourself.
- Nature arts and crafts: using fallen leaves, branches, acorns, etc. to create pieces of art following a prompt such as “identify three items that represent your past, present, and future.
- Walking in the forest: Taking a silent walk through the woods focusing on being mindful using your senses to be fully present.
- Gardening: Creating a personal garden in your yard or joining a community garden gives you the opportunity to feel a connection to the earth and see progress from the care put into your gardening by harvesting produce!
If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression and are interested in incorporating ecotherapy into your life, please reach out! A licensed therapist can help you discover ways to bring nature into your healing process.
Amanda enjoys creating art, practicing aerial yoga, and spending the day in nature in her free time. She is a cat mom to her tortie Peach. Amanda is a dedicated counselor at Exceptional Wellness Counseling (EWC). EWC has locations in Manalapan and Shrewsbury, NJ, and accepts a variety of insurances.
Check out Amanda’s professional bio here!
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