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gardening ecotherapy

Why does everyone keep telling you to “take a walk?”

“Get outside.”

“Go enjoy the beautiful weather.”

They want you to experience nature and try some ecotherapy. Ecotherapy (also known as green therapy, nature therapy, and earth-centered therapy) aims to improve your mental and physical wellbeing through activities related to nature. This practice has been proven to have amazing benefits, improving mood and easing anxiety, stress, and depression, and more.

In one study conducted by psychologist Terry Hartig, participants were asked to do a 40-minute cognitive task designed to induce mental fatigue. Then they were randomly assigned 40 minutes of time to be spent in one of three ways: walking in a nature preserve, walking in an urban area, or sitting quietly while reading magazines and listening to music. Participants who had walked in the nature preserve reported less anger and more positive emotions than those who engaged in the other activities. In a similar study conducted by Mind, a nature walk reduced symptoms of depression in 71% of participants, compared to only 45% of those who took a walk through a shopping center.

Ecotherapy can also be a preferred method of therapy because it can be easy, free and done on your own schedule. Some of the benefits of nature don’t only result in being immersed in the outdoors, but can come from just listening to nature sounds, smelling scents related to nature, and viewing the outside through a window.

No matter where your location, what time of year it is, or time of day, here are some ideas for you to have your own ecotherapy session to relieve grief, stress, depression, and anxiety:

  • Nature meditation – walking or sitting while either listening to the sounds, music, or even writing in a journal or reading can be very beneficial
  • Gardening (or horticulture) therapy – planting things, trimming plants, or digging
  • Animal assisted therapy– going for a walk with your 4-legged best friend, or playing fetch
  • Physical exercise– walking, jogging, biking, yoga
  • Conservation activities– picking up trash, cleaning an overrun weeded area, picking up waste along a waterfront
  • Sporting activities– shooting basketball, throwing baseball, playing cornhole or bocce ball with a partner
  • Promote the outdoors inside– open your windows, add live plants to your office area
  • Adventure therapy– camping, hiking, kayaking, fishing can all be done alone or with others, but requires a little more equipment
  • Listen to sounds– find a nature sound playlist on Spotify, Amazon, Apple music or other streaming service for free
  • Make your space smell like outside– floral scents, scents related to trees and water are all good options to channel the outdoors

If you are struggling and feel like traditional therapy isn’t for you, give ecotherapy a shot. If you already do some of these activities, maybe try a new one. And next time someone tells you to “take a hike,” understand it is probably for your own good too.

For other therapy and counseling ideas, visit our blogs and articles here.