There’s nothing like the feeling after you take a walk, lay out in the sun, or even do some work outside. Being in nature has so many benefits that most people don’t understand but we can all benefit from. In fact, it’s so healing that people have started using nature therapy as a way to bond with nature and receive all of its benefits.
We, as a society, need to be in nature more due to how disconnected we are from the natural world and how connected we are to the synthetic and digital world. Over 50% of the world’s population is now living in urban areas, meaning that we’ve increasingly become more disconnected from nature.
I’m definitely one of those people who hasn’t benefited from being in an urban area, so I decided to try nature therapy for a week.
What is Nature Therapy?
Nature therapy can be whatever you want to make of it. At its core, it’s “a form of clinical counseling that integrates the healing properties of the natural world into mental health treatment.” Also known as ecotherapy, the practice stems from the belief that people’s psyches are not isolated or separate from their environment. This belief also discusses evidence of SAD and other ways the environment and the outside world might bring us down. Nature therapy can be as simple as guided walks or hikes, being with animals, or just listening to your meditation app while you’re outside.
The Benefits of Nature Therapy
View this post on Instagram
You can’t lose when you invest in nature. Studies of ecotherapy have revealed profound benefits for people’s well-being across the board. Nature is good for our brains. Everyone is often so overstimulated by the constant whirl of life, especially if you live in an urban area. Science has found that any interaction with nature can increase and enhance the brain’s cognitive functioning, specifically our attention abilities. According to this report, which compiled data from multiple studies, spending time in nature increases psychological well-being as well. Nature therapy is also a wonderful tool to help fight depression. According to a 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.” It’s no surprise that nature is healing, but the extent to which its healing powers go is a bit surprising.
Ways to Practice Nature Therapy
@splorin.lauren soak it up in Smartwool base layers 🍃🍄🌲💧🛀 @smartwoolsocial #SmartwoolPartner #Smartwool #forestbathing #naturelover ♬ Pure Imagination cover by Angelo Javier – LEUG
The world is often incessantly noisy and crowded. Forest therapy, or ‘forest bathing’, is a meditation done by walking through a forest or wooded place while engaging your five senses.
I started my nature therapy challenge with forest therapy because I felt like it was honestly the easiest on the list. I had just recently finished going on silent walks every day for a week and forest therapy felt a lot like those. The act of slowing down and engaging my senses allowed me to actually enjoy my walks and not feel as though they were just another task to check off for the day.
I chose a Headspace guided walk meditation that focused on engaging the five senses while you walk and started my walk off with that. I have to be honest, even though I’d just finished my silent walks, I was already in the habit of getting things done and going on walks without really caring about what was around me. I had also had a stressful morning, so that added to the intensity of the walk.
But the moment the ten-minute meditation started, I felt grounded and more aware of all the things going on around me. The walk didn’t feel as long as my silent walks because the meditation guided me for the first ten minutes, and I was consciously aware of my senses for the rest of the time.
I know this is the first day and I tend to get over-excited when I first start out, but starting my morning walks with a guided meditation completely revived my walk.
Arts and Crafts
@joanne_green_art Making natural watercolour paints! Part One. #watercolor #paint #cottagecore #natural #flowers #artist @kat_and_rainier ♬ Send Me on My Way – Guy Meets Girl
While crafting is often viewed as therapy in and of itself, crafting in nature can further improve mental health. While you don’t necessarily have to paint the great outdoors as a subject, using natural materials is always encouraged to enhance your experience.
I just finished this form of nature therapy and it might be my new favorite. I love to craft, but I rarely do it. This morning I grabbed my embroidery that I’ve been working on for three months now, listened to an audiobook, and got to crafting. While it is unforgivably hot outside, it felt wonderful to create something with my hands and take the time to take in nature while I did it.
I often feel cooped up when I decide to craft inside, so the fresh air and breezes helped get my creative juices flowing. I was outside for a little less than an hour and it was just what I needed to feel great today.
Have Therapy Outside
While you can do nature therapy in many different ways, this is one of the most basic. Going outside for your therapy sessions is a brilliant way to do therapy. It saves you from staring at the same four walls in your therapist’s office and it helps your creative juices flow.
I’m not currently in therapy (it’s coming soon, I swear), but I am lucky because my mother is a licensed therapist. I’ll always call my mother to tell her about all my woes, and after 30 minutes, everything is a bit better.
Today, I was overwhelmed, anxious, and not in a good place at all. I set out on my daily walk and called my mom to tell her how horrible everything was, and suddenly, the call turned to therapy.
I always feel better after my walks, but today I was also able to get real help during them as well.
View this post on Instagram
This nature-therapy-based technique is more than likely the one we’re all familiar with. Green exercise is any type of physical exercise that you can do outside.
It’s hot outside, so anytime I’m in the sun longer than five minutes, I’m burning calories. That being said, my morning walks are always a sacred time. I said this during the silent walk challenge, but I love starting my days off with a little morning walk.
This morning, I did a brisk 30-minute walk around my neighborhood. I know that an example of a green exercise is running outside, but I believe I would’ve passed out. The walk was a great time to get my head on straight and fill out my Apple Watch rings before my day got too busy. It was also just a great time to be alone and reflect on everything. I was able to take some moments of silence throughout it all and just breathe in the fresh air.
This type of therapy is one of the more popular versions. Whether it’s done with trained and capable animals or not, playing with any kind of animal is said to have healing benefits.
I adore my little rescue kitten more than words can say. While he’s not always the best cuddler, he is loving and gentle, and I truly believe he understands all of my emotions. There wasn’t one specific time I spent with him this week that counted as animal therapy but millions of little moments. Whether it was holding him after his bath, snuggling with him in the morning, playing with him during my yoga class, or just sitting with my fiancé and watching him play — being with this cat always improves my mood, and it will always be my favorite thing.
Listening to Soundscapes
View this post on Instagram
On the days when you can’t get outside, bring the outdoors to you. Listen to nature-scapes in your home. These sounds could be the sound of rain, ocean waves, birds chirping, or anything that blocks out the urban sounds all around us.
I started my morning off listening to nature soundscapes. Today is Monday and I thought some good nature sounds could combat my Sunday (now Monday) scaries. While listening to the soundscapes took me back to listening to high vibrational music, I really enjoyed starting my day off with a few nature sounds. I’m still going to go out and do things, but listening to the nature playlist in the background earlier this morning gave me the energy and comfort I needed to start the day.
While it sounds spooky, dark nature is simply doing activities outside and in the dark. This could be anything from star gazing to catching fireflies with your family.
I wasn’t sure about how I was going to witness dark nature because my ideal bedtime is nine o’clock. That being said, I witnessed ‘twilight nature’ and decided it would have to do. Last night, I went on a walk just as the sun was setting. I wanted to have enough light to be safe, but I also wanted to spend some of the last moments of light outside and around nature.
It was more healing than I thought it would be and I ended up doubling my walk time again because of how wonderful I felt during it.
I loved nature therapy. I never get out and about during the day, and I’ve felt the pull to do that more this summer than any other time. I live in an extremely urban area and even when I go out, I usually see too many signs of the city to feel safe. But this week was the healing reset I’ve been wanting and it came at the exact right time.
I can see myself doing all of these practices again and nearly every day. Other than a bit of extra sweat during the summer months, there’s no downside to going outside a bit more and spending some much-needed time in the outside world.
Have you tried nature therapy before? Are you going to now? Comment your favorite practice below!
For More Articles Like This, Read These Next: