We’ve all heard of Tree Huggers, right? Well, as it turns out - they were on to something!
Ecotherapy (known also as nature therapy or green therapy) is the term for the applied practice of treating a variety of mental health symptoms through contact with nature - coined and developed by a Dr. Theodore Roszak in the early 90’s (fun fact - he also coined the term ‘counter-culture’) . Methods take many forms, including community gardening/farming, wilderness or adventure therapy, park prescriptions, forest bathing, animal-assisted therapy, and outdoor meditation and yoga.
In his book The Voice of the Earth published in 1992, Roszark explores the effects of nature on patients with high levels of anxiety, depression and chronic stress disorder and later went on to develop the study of ecopsychology, a concept first touched upon by Freud in the late 1920’s and again by Robert Greenway in the 60’s. The premise, then nothing more than a set of anecdotal ideas, has since been developed and explored at great length and has become, while still a little green (pun intended), a guiding set of precepts for practitioners hoping to explore the correlation between mental well-being and immersion in nature.
We can all agree that spending time in the Great Outdoors makes even the most staunch city dweller feel a little softer around the edges. Breathing in that fresh, alpine air (that, inexplicably, occasionally smells like that happy herb we heard about as teens - don’t you think?!); dipping those poor, pallid toes - too oft incarcerated and bound by imitation leather - in a crisp, babbling brook; feeling the warmth of the sun on your face as you recline in a glade of soft, green grass… there’s something deniably restorative about these things.
But exactly how long must one subject themselves to such torture to achieve the benefits, we hear our concrete-loving counterparts ask?
According to a recent study (2019) of 20,000 people by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter that answer is exactly 120 minutes, and not a second less. The study showed that people not meeting the two hour window, whether all at once or tempered out over the period of the week, may as well be watching the scrolling stock images on their computer screens in sleep mode. But for those who managed to carve out that time for themselves, the effects, it was reported, were robust. As long as people felt safe (sorry, Australians!) they reported lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduced nervous system arousal, enhanced immune system function, increased self-esteem, reduced anxiety, and improved mood. Japanese governments and heads of corporations have known about this for years, and enthusiastically encourage their employees to embark on Forest Bathing whenever productivity and morale starts to slump. So, while the field of ecopsychology is still an emerging field, there’s no shortage of historical and contemporary research that suggests that getting back to nature does wonders for your health.
Whether it’s taking a stroll with a loved one or pet, pulling weeds, hiking a mountain, taking a picnic by a lake, camping in one of our beautiful national parks or heading to one of the many Back to Basics and Permaculture retreats listed on our website (smooth, eh?) - we can now officially say “Do it - it’s doctors orders!”*
Head to our home page, for more information on the many wonderful retreats we have coming up near you!
** Doctors orders not included.