Ecotherapy: Get outside!
Everyone knows that the holidays can be a stressful time for people. Travel, visits with relatives or having company in our home brings an increased demand on our time and our resources. With all of the expectations comes the increase in our stress and anxiety levels as well. So what is the solution?
Psychologists in the new field of ecotherapy believe that spending time outdoors is important for our health. Spending time in a beautiful outdoor living space helps improve depression, lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem, helps with impulse control, decreases postoperative recovery time, and encourages new social behaviors in patients with dementia, according to book Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind. Research has found that there is a connection between spending time in green space and well-being.
Spending time outdoors can be especially beneficial for those with depression, anxiety, stress or other mental illnesses. Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder, and the incidence of depression has increased every year during the past century. Currently, one in six people will experience a depressive episode in their lifetime. Now, more than ever before, it is becoming evident that spending time in a beautiful outdoor living space is important to our mental health! Looking at trees might even have a tangible health benefit—patients who viewed trees outside the window recovered more quickly from hospital stays (Ulrich, 1984). Research looking at over 900,000 data points found that children who grew up with the lowest levels of green space had up to 55% higher risk of developing a psychiatric disorder (Engemann, et al., 2019). That urge that you have for that gorgeous backyard may actually be the key to your family’s mental well-being.
Do not underestimate the value of a beautiful outdoor living space! Regardless of age or culture, humans find nature restorative. In one study, researchers found that more than two-thirds of people choose a natural setting to retreat to when stressed. In another study, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced. In a world where technology and progress fills each and every day, something within us longs for the restorative soothing feeling that can only be found in the simplicity of living green spaces. Creating that backyard paradise getaway may be more important than you think! As human beings, we are hardwired to feel an attraction towards thriving plant life and the sound of water. This is not just for aesthetics, but at our core, this is instinctually a survival instinct. Our ancestors settled in fertile green areas and close to water sources in order to ensure survival. Regardless of how urban our homes are, there is something to be said for our ancestral urge to create a green space that provides that restorative reprieve that replenishes us. Instinctually, we know that we need this for our well-being.
Research has shown that barefoot contact with the earth can produce nearly instant changes in a variety of physiological measures, helping improve sleep, reduce pain, decrease muscle tension and lower stress. The more we learn about our body’s responses to green space, the more reasons we find to spend time outdoors. Taking a walk on your grass could change not only your mental state of mind, but your health as well! Feeling a little down after the holiday? Go outside and get yourself some ecotherapy!