What is Eco-Therapy?
Most of us relate to the natural world as if we are separate, as if it's something that's "out" there. We walk past flowering trees, singing birds, rushing water, changing clouds without noticing them, unaware of what's around us, absorbed in phones or in our own thoughts. This separation and detachment from our natural environments can make us feel isolated, alienated and depressed. Eco-psychology recognizes that humans have an innate need to be in relationship to the earth and to each other and we suffer in our current artificial and disconnected societies.
Eco-therapy aims to relieve suffering, reduce stress and provide emotional regulation through moving into greater connection to our natural world. It provides a context to understand personal suffering as a response to environmental/community destruction and the artificial systems of modern human life.
Does it really help?
There is a growing body of evidence showing the effectiveness of spending time in nature on mental health. One study found that people who spent time in nature reported feeling less stressed, more positive and having less of the stress hormone cortisol. Ecotherapy can help boost the immune system and can improve sleep quality and reduce chronic pain.
Being in nature can provide a sense of connection to something larger than ourselves which is especially helpful for people who are feeling isolated and disconnected. It can improve creativity and problem-solving skills. By encouraging a sense of peace and tranquility, the mind is allowed to wander and come up with new ideas.
We don't need new programming, we need to return to a naturally responsive state. We need to be treating ourselves more like plants than computers. We need fresh air, water, sunshine, rest, healthy food and safety to grow to our highest potential.
"If we are to heal as a collective, we must listen to the scorched land, dialog with the remains of the clear cut forest, speak to the rising ocean. The great gift of this world is that we can have access to a fruitful, vibrant, verdant landscape within our psyches."
-Jan Edl Stein, MFT Holos Institute
What does it look like?
Taking a mindful walk
Guided meditations with an eco-therapist
Collecting rocks or other symbols of nature to use at home or in art
Opening yourself up to a dialogue with an other- than-human life, like an animal, tree or plant.
Spending dedicated time in a forest, near an ocean or in a rainstorm and focusing on the breath, sensations and emotions
Identifying ways in which you've become disconnected from what brings you joy and freedom
Learning how to regulate your nervous system and manage intrusive thoughts