It’s estimated that approximately 1 in 4 people in the world are affected by mental health issues. Thankfully, the stigma around mental illness is decreasing and our openness to discussing it has paved the way for new and promising revelations and treatments. Ecotherapy is a way to treat mental and physical health by being in nature, and it’s giving people another amazing reason to just get outside.
So why is nature such a healer for mental health? We discuss…
It gives perspective
If aspects of your personal life are weighing on you, being outdoors has a way of removing you from those surroundings and putting your personal problems into perspective. A change of scenery can be a big help in changing your thought processes, and studies have shown that being in a beautiful place just makes you feel better, period.
Surrounding yourself with your favourite aspects of nature can improve your mood drastically, and makes you focus on the good and beauty of the world instead of your negative thoughts.
Increase physical activity
Many people who are dealing with mental health issues tend to stay in places where they’re comfortable, so just the physical act of getting out of your home/school or office and going outdoors is a step in the right direction.
Walking, jogging, hiking or bike riding outdoors are all important forms of physical activity, and that’s important for your mental health as well as physical. Being physically active naturally produces endorphins which naturally make you feel good, improve sleep and even enhance overall cognitive function. All of these things replace your stress hormones with positive feelings.
Improve Energy levels
Energy levels can suffer greatly with your mental health and can leave you physically exhausted. Nature is the best and easiest way to get some fresh air, which provides oxygen for your brain and other cells, bringing clarity and increasing serotonin which naturally makes happy feelings. The change in temperature of going outside can help boost your energy as well.
Relax Your Nervous System
For people suffering from anxiety, your environment can be a major trigger, and the peaceful space of nature rather than busy city life can be just what you need to combat those feelings. A calm natural environment is ideal for a relaxed nervous system, and just being in nature creates such a calming and therapeutic affect for many.
Improve your social life
Isolation is a common symptom associated with mental health issues. Being outside naturally puts you around other people, and whether you interact with them or not, that’s a good thing for your brain.
Seeing and being around other people increases your sense of belonging and makes you feel like a part of a something bigger – a community, a country and the human species as a whole. It shows you that you’re not alone, that there are other people like you who are living with their own issues as well. Who knows, you may even make a new friend at the park, or even just exchange a smile with someone who may brighten your day.
Add some structure to your schedule
Along with isolation, people suffering from mental health issues often lose their routines and sense of purpose as well. Some of the best outdoor activities such as gardening, dog walking and bird feeding are great ways to not only develop a new sense of purpose, but they create a healthy routine which can be essential to breaking habits.
These outdoor activities also create and nurture life, which is so immensely rewarding and therapeutic on its own. The repetitive nature can also be extremely beneficial as well, as they allow you to zone out and escape from your inner dialogue for a while.
Increase your Vitamin D Intake
Vitamins are key to our general health, but Vitamin D in particular has been shown to affect mental health, and there’s no better way to get it than spending some quality time in the sunlight. New studies have shown that Vitamin D actually lowers blood pressure and helps treat depression as well.
To read more about the effects of nature on mental health, check out these great sources: