Spending time in nature is a wonderful way to relax. It can make you feel peaceful and calm. When being outdoors in nature is used as a form of therapy for individuals that have a substance use disorder, it is known as ecotherapy.
Ecotherapy is a type of holistic therapy. The basic tenet of ecotherapy is that every person has a deep connection to nature and that fostering that connection can bring healing and balance to a person’s life. Ecotherapy focuses on the person’s overall wellbeing, taking into consideration their physical state and mental health.
Ecotherapy is also known as:
- Earth-centered therapy
- Nature therapy
- Green therapy
Where Did Ecotherapy Begin?
Ecopsychology studies the relationship between the ecological and psychological principles that people use and the natural world. Ecotherapy is the applied science of ecopsychology. Although that term was not known until 1992, when a California professor, Theodore Roszark, used it in his book The Voice of the Earth, the many therapeutic benefits of spending time in nature have been seen in both Western and Eastern cultures throughout history.
Ecotherapists believe that a person’s psyche, or subconscious, is part of the environment and that the person is part of the whole. They believe that when a person has a relationship with nature and an environment that is nurturing, healing is accelerated.
Positive Health Benefits of Ecotherapy
Many studies show that when a person spends time in the sunlight breathing in the fresh air, it boosts their overall mood and provides them with more energy. Sunlight is also helpful to people who have seasonal affect disorder, commonly referred to as SAD. Connecting with nature has many additional positive health benefits for everyone, especially those in recovery. It helps people:
- Feel more centered, calm, and peaceful
- Manage stress
- Stay grounded
- Have a more positive attitude that helps to fight off depression
- Think more clearly and have a fresh perspective
- Fight off illness
The Nature Cure, in the Atlantic, explains how relapse rates of people with drug or alcohol addictions decreased when they were involved in camping programs.
Ecotherapy Offers Many Choices of Activities and Techniques
Although ecotherapy is often guided by an ecotherapist or practitioner, it can also be done alone. A session could cover any time span ranging from a few minutes to days or weeks. An activity may include a group or just one person. Ecotherapy activities usually take place outdoors, but there are also indoor activities. The techniques and activities vary to fit individual needs. .
Practicing any type of physical exercise outdoors is a well-known form of ecotherapy. Activities might include doing yoga in the park, walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling, all of which are a great way to reduce stress, anger, depression, and anxiety.
Additional forms of ecotherapy include:
- Horticultural therapy, including being part of a community garden or growing your own, which promotes well-being and fosters feelings of worthiness.
- Equine or pet therapy, such as petting a horse or playing with a dog, which helps reduce aggressiveness and agitation.
- Being part of the conservation activities in your area, which creates feelings of purpose and hopefulness.
- Taking part in a group nature meditation, which fosters feelings of self-respect and self-esteem.
Take a walk in the park, play an outdoor game, enjoy reading a book sitting at the beach, visit a botanical garden, or go for a swim–there are so many things to do outdoors, where you will gain all the benefits of nature.
Indoor Ecotherapy Techniques and Activities
There are different reasons that some people may not be able to go outside. When this happens, practice visualization exercises. To do this, focus on your favorite outdoor place or setting, perhaps a field of wildflowers, an ocean beach with waves hitting the shore, or a lush forest. As you visualize the place, let your mind see it. Let yourself feel like you are there.
If you are not able to go outside, the following are a few other ways to benefit from nature:
- Grow herbs, flowers, or houseplants.
- Listen to recordings of the sounds of nature.
- Look at paintings or photos of natural scenes.
- Write about or draw pictures of the seasons as they change.
There is Help Available
If you or a person you know is suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol, there are many resources and trained professionals available to help you at English Mountain Recovery Center, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Feel free to call us for information about our programs, including our outdoor programs and our equine experience program. We use a combination of holistic, clinical, and psychiatric care to give you the tools you need to lead a sober and clean life.