5 Ways Being in Nature (Ecotherapy) Can Make You Happier and Healthier
According to Howard Clinebell, a well-established author on the topic, ecotherapy is the "healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the earth." And of late, this kind of therapy has gained international recognition for its powerful effects and many health benefits.
In fact, a study conducted by the University of Essex in 2007 found that 90% of test subjects living with depression felt a higher self-esteem after walking through a beautiful park, and almost three quarters felt less depressed.
Another study by the same university revealed that a staggering 94% of people with a depressive mental disorder felt happier after being in nature.
For this reason, many mental health professionals are starting to move away from traditional, synthetic medicine, and incorporating ecotherapy into their daily practice. An additional bonus to this form of therapy? It's completely free!
With that, here are five health benefits of being in nature that not only make you physically healthier, but also...happier!
1. Better Academic Performance
A Finnish study conducted on children between the ages of seven to nine, found that engaging in a moderate to vigorous walk correlated to better reading fluency and comprehension, as well as improved mathematical skill, especially in boys.
The Scots College (Glengarry campus) in Kangaroo Valley, Australia monetized on this notion. The boys-only private school focuses on agriculture, outdoor learning, and aims to provide their students with "all the benefits of outdoor education."
2. Physical Health: Reduced Blood Pressure, Improved Sleep, Longer Lifespan
After extensive research on ecotherapy, Holli-Anne Passmore (M.A. Psychological Science) and Andrew J. Howell (clinical psychologist) of Grant MacEwan University in Alberta, Canada found some interesting health benefits of being in nature.
Their findings revealed that seniors living in areas lush with green, walkable spaces enjoyed a longer lifespan and less symptoms of ill-health, regardless of their sex, mental health and socioeconomic status.
They also found that those who worked in a space decorated with flowers and plants showed a 15% rise in cognitive functioning - such as an increase in creative ideas, problem-solving, and innovation.
Dr Miles Richardson, head of psychology at the University of Derby, stated that the mere exposure to nature plays a big role in one's physical health. His research found that it can reduce symptoms of ADD/ADHD, hypertension, obesity, and long-term illnesses such as Parkinson's, diabetes, and Alzheimer.
Alanna McGinn, a certified sleep consultant and founder of Good Night Sleep, stated that when one feels connected to the earth, they benefit from:
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced chronic pain
- Improved sleep
- Lower stress
Interestingly, Craig Chalquist, PhD in depth psychology, found that even "green exercise - exercising while viewing photos of nature" reduced blood pressure considerably!
These physical benefits are part in parcel of the fact that being in an open space encourages the movement of one's body, and that people are more likely to exercise when in a visually-beautiful setting.
In addition, Trust Mild, plant-based herbal drops, can also reduce the symptoms of ADD/ADHD and cognitive functioning - much like the effects of being in nature.
3. Mental Health: Reduced Depression and Anxiety, Increased Well-Being, Improved Mood
In an interesting study, conducted by researchers at Stanford University, it was found that those who spent 90 minutes in nature, as opposed to urban, high-traffic areas, felt a significant decrease in depressive symptoms. In fact, the brain showed less activity in the region of the brain usually active in those with depression, after a walk in nature.
Additionally, researchers at Duke University found that a mere 30-minute walk in nature three times a week was more effective than the anti-depressant, Zoloft.
These researchers also found that those who embraced nature felt less anxiety and stress, and engaged in less negative self-talk. It has also been said to improve one's mood, and bring about a better sense of well-being and happiness.
4. Increased Mindfulness, A Special Kind of Meditation
Taking a walk in nature - be it at the park, at the beach, or in the mountain, brings about a feeling that is very similar to that felt during meditation. One who exercises in nature is said to be 50% happier than those who exercise in the gym or at another indoor location, according to a British study.
It's also been said that being outside in nature induces the concept of mindfulness. One will take in the sights, smells, sounds, and natural light, which allows them to feel more connected to their surroundings as well as themselves.
5. Being in Nature : Like Hitting the Reset Button
One tends to feel a sense of calmness and peace when it nature, but in actuality, it is so much more than that.
Writer at The Atlantic, and professor of psychology, Adam Atler wrote:
"The difference between natural and urban landscapes is how they command our attention. While man-made landscapes bombard us with stimulation, their natural counterparts give us the chance to think as much or as little as we'd like, and the opportunity to replenish exhausted mental resources."
So, go ahead and hit that reset button with a leisurely, or brisk, walk in beautiful nature!
Wishing you a peaceful day,
Lieve Plasch www.go4balance.eu