“when i went away to summer camp, my little strawberry shortcake diary said, ‘when i grow up, i want to help people in the outdoors,’” lung says. nature therapy, also called ecotherapy, is the practice of being in nature to boost growth and healing, especially mental health. although people use those terms to describe lots of outdoor activities, they can also be examples of specific nature therapy programs. for example, being in a green space has been linked to less anxiety, fewer depression symptoms, and lower stress levels. “one of the top benefits that we address are for people who are trying to reduce anxiety or depression and increase relationship and connection,” lung says. “he was pretty nervous about talking with me and i suggested, ‘you want to just take a walk outside?’ and i just noticed how his voice changed,” hasbach says.
“just the symbiotic benefits of being outside.” “i really operate in my clinical practice on this idea that because we are nature, everybody can benefit from including ecotherapy into their work,” hasbach says. for example, lung’s practice is in a very urban area, but she often relies on county parks and nearby beaches. usually, nature therapy involves experiencing nature (like taking a walk through the forest) or working in nature (like gardening). the amount of physical activity you’ll get in nature therapy depends on the person. “if i’m working with a teenager and we’re working on frustration times, then i might be doing paddle boarding outside. in that case, i might do sailing because that’s a cooperative activity,” lung says. exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments.” curve: “dark nature: exploring potential benefits of nocturnal nature-based interaction for human and environmental health.”
ecotherapy, in many cases, stems from the belief that people are part of the web of life and that our psyches are not isolated or separate from our environment. connection with the earth and its systems are at the core of ecotherapy. ecotherapy is based on the idea that people are connected to and impacted by the natural environment. following the task, participants were randomly assigned 40 minutes of time to be spent in one of three conditions: walking in a nature preserve, walking in an urban area, or sitting quietly while reading magazines and listening to music. participants who had walked in the nature preserve reported less anger and more positive emotions than those who engaged in the other activities.
many other studies help to demonstrate the positive effects of nature on both physical and mental health. the addition of flowers and plants to a workplace can positively affect creativity, productivity, and flexible problem solving, while the presence of animals may reduce aggression and agitation among children and those diagnosed with alzheimer’s disease. some activities take place with the guidance of a therapist while others are carried out individually. many practicing ecotherapists are trained and licensed in a related area, such as counseling or psychotherapy, and incorporate the principles and techniques of ecotherapy into their existing practice. jfk university in san francisco also offers a one-year ecotherapy certificate program, which provides training in a wide range of ecotherapy techniques which can be applied to individuals, couples, groups, and communities.
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