“Nature always wears the colours of the spirit” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nature as medicine is set to become a trend in 2019. The number of people living in urbanised areas is growing and for many little or no access to nature can impact physical and emotional well being. Living in a concrete jungle can deny us the experience of the joys of nature and its powerful healing properties.
The strong connection between nature and human health is not new. In the 1500’s Paracelsus, the German-Swiss physician, wrote: “The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician”. There is scientific evidence to support the use of nature as a cure and increasingly ahead of the curve, doctors are prescribing time in nature as an alternative to traditional treatments like anti-depressions to treat a range of illnesses including high blood pressure, depression, ADHD, addiction and anxiety.
This relatively new practise is known as Ecotherapy. Ecotherapy encompasses a range of treatments designed to improve your mental and physical well-being by taking part in activities in nature. Connecting with nature in this way has lots of positive health benefits. You can use Ecotherapy on its own, or to compliment other treatments like talking therapies or medication.
Ecotherapy training programs as well eco retreats, green gyms, health walks and horticulture groups are becoming increasingly popular both here in the UK and globally as more people turn to nature for respite and to benefit from it’s healing powers. In London, groups like the groundedproject.org meet on a regular basis to work on group horticultural projects transforming neglected urban areas into abundant green spaces.
If a structured activity is a little much not to worry Ecotherapy is easy to practise and can include many different elements like green exercise, green care, green therapy or horticultural therapy. Here are some simple ways to incorporate nature therapy into your daily routine.
1. Spend Mindful Time in Nature.
Plan ten minutes for walk outside into your daily routine. If you take any regular walks to work or uni, plan the route so that you take in a local park or river.
When the weather's nice, try and eat outside as much as possible. Enjoy an outdoor picnic with friends or relax by yourself.
If you have a garden, create a space that you enjoy sitting in or find a favourite spot in your local park to sit and watch the scenery. Have your morning coffee/tea outside.
Sit under a tree for a while, lean back against it and feel it supporting you.
Ensure some of your exercise routine is spent outside running, jogging, yoga, group exercise training sessions in your local park.
2. Bring Nature Inside.
Collect natural materials like leaves, some wild flowers or fresh cuttings and use to decorate your indoor space.
Create a comfortable area in your home where you have a view of the sky, garden or trees. Try a window seat or a desk beside the window.
Grow plants or herbs on your window sill and place succulents and low maintenance plants around your home. Plants like aloe vera, peace lilies and palms require little effort and have purifying and oxygenating properties as well as brightening up your home!
Take pictures of your favourite places in nature, frame them and put them up throughout your home.
If you are cooking, reading, working, why not play your favourite nature sounds? Play birdsong, forest or ocean sounds in the background.
3. Practise Horticulture at Home and in your Community.
Cultivate a growing space. If you don't have a garden yourself, you could offer to help a neighbour with their garden. If you grow vegetables, share the food you grow and make a meal together.
Put your name down for an allotment or consider sharing one with a neighbour.
4. Be Closer to the Animals.
When you are walking in the countryside parks or near rivers, fields and forests look out for wildlife. Here in London I often see birds, squirrels and foxes on my daily walk.
If you are a dog person, consider becoming a member of dogbuddy, fostering, volunteering at your local dog rescue centre or offer to walk your neighbour's dog.
Hang a bird feeder outside your window. If you have the space, you could build a small roosting box on a tree or under a windowsill.
5. Take Care of Nature in your Environment.
Plant something outside the front of your home so that everyone who walks by can enjoy it.
Plant flowers for the bees and berry bushes for the birds in your garden.
Build an animal habitat in your garden - put up a bird box, create a hedgehog house or a pond.
Volunteer your time with an environmental conservation project.