Nature therapy, also known as ecotherapy, is a practice that involves being outside surrounded by nature, facilitated by a therapist. This form of therapy offers the opportunity for a connection to enable us to gain clarity, create perspective, feel inner calm, and aid growth and healing. Trees, plants, animals, birds, the elements, and the cycle of seasons can be our teachers and mirror our feelings.

Activities and Benefits of Nature Therapy

Nature therapy involves various activities such as walking, observing, and meditating, involving all of our senses to develop our connection to the natural world. Studies have shown that exposure to green spaces can improve mood, motivation, concentration, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. Nature therapy differs from traditional indoor therapy in that it takes place in an open space and offers a safe and inspiring environment to work through issues and find a sense of well-being.

Climate Change and Mental Health

Climate change is affecting mental health, both directly and indirectly. Mental health professionals are ringing the alarm about the threat of the climate crisis on mental health. The American Psychological Association released an updated report in collaboration with the nonprofit EcoAmerica, highlighting the threat of the climate crisis on mental health. The World Health Organization launched a policy brief urging countries to incorporate mental health support into their climate change responses.

Ecotherapy as a Solution

Ecotherapy has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. It can improve self-esteem and mood and can be done in a variety of settings, including parks, gardens, and forests. Ecotherapy can involve activities such as gardening, hiking, and animal-assisted therapy. It is a low-cost and low-risk form of therapy and can be used as a complementary treatment alongside other therapies. Ecotherapy is proven to help ADHD and is a universally accessible treatment that can be used for just 30 minutes after school or over a lunch break.

Guided Imagery and Mental Health

Guided imagery is a mindfulness tool that uses the power of imagination to encourage the nervous system back into a state of focus and calm. It can help cope with fatigue, nerves, performance, stress, and other inhibiting mental roadblocks. Visualizing a calming scene, drawing on all five senses, can trigger the body’s relaxation response to move from a state of “fight or flight” to “rest and digest.”Guided imagery can be used by medical health professionals for stress management and pain relief, meditation, and yoga teachers to help students foster focus, coaches, and trainers for athletes to improve performance, and even some corporations for team-building exercises.