According to a 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, when we lose our connection with nature, it “can result in a cost to humans resulting in slower recovery times, greater distress and reduced well-being.” The antidote to this is referred to by psychologists as “ecotherapy,” which involves interactions with nature to enhance healing and growth.
What’s the point of ecotherapy, aka nature therapy? While there are lots of reasons to spend more time outside, it’s mainly used to naturally improve people’s moods and energy levels.
Many studies have found that being outdoors in nature has a natural calming effect and can help manage issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, fatigue, substance abuse disorders and insomnia. This is exactly why ecotherapy was recommended during the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, in order to help people cope with social isolation and the “consequent psychosocial aftermath.”
What Is Ecotherapy?
Ecotherapy, also called ecopsychology, is a mental health approach that utilizes the positive effects of nature to lift one’s sense of well-being. It involves spending time outdoors in various ways, such as by gardening, exercising outside, or simply laying on the beach or in a park.
Researchers often refer to ecotherapy interventions as “environmental therapies” and “animal-assisted therapies,” although there are other types too. For example, social and therapeutic horticulture, care farming, green exercise, environmental conservation, and wilderness therapy are some approaches used to promote mental health.
These interventions are recommended for just about everybody, including both children and the elderly, and have demonstrated promising findings in many studies, especially for people living with mental disorders.
There are lots of different ways to practice ecotherapy, depending on your location, physical abilities and preferences. Some popular nature therapy/ecotherapy activities include: