You go to your doctor because you’ve been struggling with stress. He takes his prescription pad and writes down which park for you to visit, for how long, and which days.
Seem a bit farfetched?
According to an article in The Atlantic, it’s already happening. And it’s likely to occur more and more as professionals and the general population embraces the benefits of ecotherapy.
Engaging with nature will also lead to being more eco-conscious and making better choices and decisions for our own health and the healing of our natural environment.
What is Ecotherapy?
Ecotherapy is also known as nature therapy or green therapy. It’s based on the growing body of research and knowledge that indicates people get physical and psychological benefits from being in contact with nature.
The form of contact can range from viewing images of nature or listening to sounds, to being near nature, to being immersed in nature.
The foundation for engaging ecotherapy is the understanding that we are part of a larger web of life that includes all of nature. And so, we are not separate from it.
When we watch a houseplant grow, enjoy the company of our dog, or walk in the neighborhood park, we are reconnecting with the natural wholeness of who we are.
Ecotherapy is, in fact, a form of mindfulness, which is why it has such a powerful healing effect on us. You can read more about that in the section below.
How Does Ecotherapy Work?
Ecotherapy works because we are a part of nature ourselves. When we deliberately connect with it or immerse ourselves in it, we are becoming whole.
The natural world is our home, and so, whenever we make that connection, it reinforces our sense of belonging and fitting into the bigger picture.
Nature also makes us feel better because it’s a natural source of positive energy that renews our energy. So, when we spend time with the natural world, we’re filling up our tank, so to speak.
It’s why gardening is so popular.
Over the last decades, we’ve been moving farther and farther away from our connection with nature in daily living and becoming more involved with technological advances. Spending large blocks of time involved with electronic devices is not helpful for our healing and renewal.
Nature and Mindfulness Connection
Another reason people are inherently drawn to the natural world and its healing is that being in nature is an easy way to become centered in the present moment.
All elements of nature draw us quickly out of the mental chatter of our mind and distract us from inner turmoil. We reside in the peace of the “now” whenever we encounter the natural world. It doesn’t matter if it’s paddling down the Amazon River or tending to our houseplants.
The beauty and magnificence of nature bring out the sense of awe and wonder that is buried inside all of us as we rush through daily activities, and it deepens our consciousness.
Consciousness-raising activities, such as walking mindfully, are powerful tools. Still, they can be taken up a level when you include the natural world in the mix. So, the next time you go for a mindful walk, try doing it in the park or along the beach for added benefits.
Ecotherapy has grown out of the application of ecopsychology, which developed from a combination of several traditions and areas of study.
There isn’t a governing body that provides certification in ecotherapy for those who want formal training.
However, many individual institutions are offering their own training and certification in this growing field of interest. And what you are exposed to in the courses can take different forms.
There are sometimes two different approaches to ecopsychology. One way is to focus on how the individual heals by exposure to nature. The other aim looks at healing for both the client and the environment itself.
It is common for people who receive a healing effect from nature to feel moved to return the favor, often becoming involved in conservation and environmental efforts.
If you’re interested in ecotherapy certification, do an online search for the term. In the results, you’ll see some of the places that offer it.
You could also check with your local university or college to see if they have a list of places offering this type of program. It is usually associated with general departments of psychological training and certification.
How to Do Ecotherapy at Home
There are retreats and centers where you can go to do ecotherapy with a leader, alone or with a group. But you don’t have to spend money or travel to get the benefits of communing with the natural world.
And while we’re on that topic, if you decide to receive ecotherapy from an individual or from a center, do careful research to make sure it’s what you are looking for, and that it’s legitimate. When a new area of service is unregulated, you could end up finding the value doesn’t meet the expectation.
Some ideas for things you can do at home to reap the benefits of connecting with nature include:
- Create an indoor or outdoor garden, with composting
- Sit in your backyard garden
- Spend time in a nearby park or greenspace
- Go to the beach for the day
- Spend time with your pet or volunteer at a shelter
- Watch videos of nature
- Decorate your home with natural landscapes
- Volunteer with a local conservation group
- Help with a community cleanup
- Listen to recorded nature sounds
- Do yoga or a mindfulness activity in your backyard or the park
- Read books about nature
- Take up birdwatching
Use these suggestions or come up with others to get in touch with the natural world. Make it as straightforward or as complex as suits your preferences. It’s all about what works for you.
Ecotherapy is a rapidly growing area of interest because it makes natural sense for us to seek healing in the place that we came from – our source. It embodies our inherent need to return to the place where we are most grounded and centered in the life force. And, most of all, to take care of it.