The medicine of nature
That feeling of the fresh air on your face, the open space around you, the moment, the connection with nature and the world around us
- Is nature our natural medicine?
Todays society lives a stressful, busy life, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are on the increase. So many people are living in the past or the future and very few people are taking time to appreciate the presence, the world around us .
More and more studies are showing how nature can have profound effects on our wellbeing and mental health.
It could be that missing connection with the earths energy in modern day with the use of shoes and beds? It could be the lack of fresh air, the lack of vitamin D from the sun? Reduced spiritual connection with the world around us? A combination of all of these.?Whatever it is nature is proving to be therapeutic.
There are studies showing that people who live in greenspaces generally seem to be happier, and may live longer than those who don’t but more and more studies are now showing how reconnecting with nature boosts mood, happiness and is effective in helping treat mental health conditions.
Although it has been around for a couple of decades, Ecotherapy is an emerging treatment for mental wellbeing. Ecotherapy is the idea of connecting to nature to aid wellbeing and even treat mental illness condition such as depression, anxiety.
We all know that feeling of therapy we get when we spend a day out in the countryside - relaxed, recharged, happy - that is a form of ecotherapy.
All around the world, ecotherapy is developing as a form of therapy, helping us reconnect with ourselves, nature and reset our natural energy.
Its not surprising it is becoming increasingly popular with studies showing only positive results of nature therapy.
Forest therapy originated in Japan but is spreading worldwide. A japanese study shower that by gazing at forest scenery for just 20 minutes reduced cortisol levels (the hormone that rises when we are under stress) in saliva by nearly 14%, and thats just 20 minutes. Imagine a couple of hours, a weekend away?
Green mental health care
A report - A review of nature based interventions for mental health care,showed that taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental ill-health. The report suggests that nature projects are already making a difference to people’s lives and bring a range of positive benefits for those with existing mental ill health. These include a reduction in depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms, and an improvement in dementia-related symptoms.
The report also shows that people involved in these types of green care activities have a greatly increased level of social contact and inclusion; as well as a sense of belonging and personal achievement.
Nature - the new happy pill
This study looked at the effect of noticing nature around you and the feelings that created. The study involved 3 groups of people, one taking pictures of natural things around them that took their eye, one of human / man made things, and one did nothing different to usual. Each were asked to note their feelings. The difference in the participants’ well-being —their happiness, sense of elevation, and their level of connectedness to other people, not just nature — was significantly higher for the first group than that of participants
The great thing about this study is that it found virtually any form of immersion in the natural world, outside of your internal world, heightens your overall well-being and well as more positive engagement with the larger human community. We don't all have access to open green spaces and countryside, but just a little bit of nature can help. However, it did show that we need to connect with the environment, what is around us and not just walk past it.
“This wasn’t about spending hours outdoors or going for long walks in the wilderness. This is about the tree at a bus stop in the middle of a city and the positive effect that one tree can have on people.”
The nature fix
If you need more convincing that nature may be the medicine that you need - The nature fix is a thought provoking book by florence williams, looking at how nature can produce the same effects as mind altering drugs. It is definitely worth a read to help you reconnect with nature. See what i learnt from reading the nature fix for a great review.
So how do you start on your nature fix?
You don't have to pack your bags and move to the middle of nowhere, there are lots of things you can do to start reaping the benefits of nature medicine. The key however is connection, you can't just be around nature, you need to see it. Here are a few ways to get you nature fix started.
- grow a tree outside your window
- have a plant on your desk
- get an allotment / start gardening
- join a community outside group
- volunteer - litter picking, wildlife groups / centres
- schedule a weekly nature walk
- just be more observant of nature around you
- try camping as your next holiday
- eat your lunch outside
- walk to work
- nature mindfulness
Start your journey in nature, connect and heal you body and mind