Eco therapy: The Transformative Power of nature in mental well-being

Eco therapy: The Transformative Power of nature in mental well-being

Eco therapy

Connecting with nature has long been seen to be helpful for a variety of reasons, including psychological well-being. Varying between anthropocentrism and eco-centrism, differences in Indian and Western thoughts have viewed natural elements in different lights. Based on explicit environmental or ecological interventions, Eco therapy is a novel form of psychotherapeutic modality. It has been shown to be potent in medical disorders like ADHD, depression, obesity, post-surgical recovery. A simple walk in the park or observing a plant had partially relieved people from overwhelming stress and made their heads lighter. Nature has enormous healing powers, which is why a lot of people are turning towards it for solace. In a technologically driven world, disconnection from the digital world and immersing in the natural world offers a sense of deep concord.

It has abundant benefits on both yin and yang’s, mental and physical health respectively. In addition, exposure to natural light fosters a sense of rejuvenation and vitality. A Japanese practice that goes with the name ‘Shinrin-yoku’ or ‘forest bathing’ has obtained extreme popularity spanning throughout the entire world.

Also Read: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Concepts, Types & Techniques

Evolution of Eco therapy

Drawing from diversified historical sources, this therapy uprooted as a unique field within counseling and psychotherapy, in the terminal part of the 20th century. With several contributions from various disciplines and philosophies, this modality of ecotherapy gained momentum. Eco therapy is manufactured from disparate influences, such as ecofeminism, spirituality, green-centered therapy, deep ecology etc. Explored by scholars like Orr and Thomashow, environmental literacy contributes to the heterogeneous nature of Eco therapy.

Outdoor therapeutic activities dating back to the therapeutic camps of the 1860s and outdoor therapeutic conversations in the early days of the psychoanalytic movement demonstrate historical continuity in ecotherapy practice. The desire for a holistic, therapeutic approach to the relationship between humans and nature has long existed in Western cultural history and environmental philosophy.

Essentially, Eco therapy, while seemingly new, has deep roots in historical, cultural, and philosophical contexts. Its development represents a dynamic response to the changing landscapes of the relationship between humans and nature, recognizing the timeless need for holistic and therapeutic approaches to our connection to the natural world.

Also Read: Attachment Therapy Essentials for Mental Health

Healing Gardens

Ever noticed how most of the convention hospitals have spaces filled with mini gardens? The term “healing garden” is often associated with green spaces in hospitals or other health care facilities designed to improve health outcomes. These spaces serve as havens of tranquility, promoting healing for patients, families, and staff by providing a place for relaxation and rejuvenation. Healing gardens tailored to the cancer population do not follow a one-size-fits-all approach. Reflecting the diversity of cancer types and stages, each of these healing gardens features a unique combination of nature and health services tightly integrated into the hardscape, soft cape and spaces aesthetics. Therapists create landscapes or gardens to meet the individual requirements of specific patient groups, often involving their active and intentional participation. Healing gardens enhance symptom relief, alleviate stress, improve overall health, and foster a sense of hope.

The Healing Power of Nature

Envisage for a minute, close your eyes and imagine yourself walking through a path in a green luscious forest, the sun shedding on you, you can smell the damp moss, tree trunks. The air is so earthy and easy to breathe in. Felt like serendipity didn’t it? Benefits of ecotherapy include physical, mental and spiritual rejuvenation.

Also Read: The Essential Role of Counselling and Therapy in Mental Wellness

Below are some documented benefits:
  • Reduce stress: Many studies have shown that time spent in nature leads to a decrease in cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
  • Reduce social isolation: By participating in an ecotherapy group such as care farming or conservation efforts.
  • Build Confidence: Wilderness camp is famous for enhancing one’s self-esteem and confidence to face any challenge. Students learn practical survival skills. They use these skills to solve problems alone or in groups.
  • Foster Trust: Team building exercises such as taking a ropes course or climbing course teach individuals to rely on each other.
  • Another method used to build self-confidence is animal-assisted therapy, which reduces the risk of depression.
  • Increasing your sunlight exposure and vitamin D intake can improve your immune system and mood. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to depression and seasonal affective disorder.
  • Improve Attention: Taking field trips or encouraging children to spend time outside during the day are two ways teachers can improve children’s attention span in the classroom.
  • Increase motivation to exercise: Exercise can come in many forms, whether it’s gardening in your backyard, walking with friends outside, or going for a bike ride.
  • Spending time outdoors can often be distracting, so people spend more time being active without even realizing it.
  • Improve relaxation: Many hospitals encourage patients to take walks in their gardens.
  • Hiking through the woods or meditating in nature are great ways to let go of the stresses of the modern world.


Horticultural Therapy:

Horticultural therapy is one or more people who engage in gardening or other plant-based activities. With the help of a qualified therapist, you will develop a therapy strategy based on your specific goals and outcomes. A goal can be to care for something (other than yourself) and watch it grow. Another goal might be to work with others in a community garden to create a sense of belonging. Or the goal might be to simply stroll among the trees and let their calming presence wash over you. It all depends on each person’s needs.

Essentially, your therapist will guide you through your relationship with plants. The environment can be an existing garden or you can do it in your own home by doing indoor gardening. Focusing on the creation and regeneration of plants has a calming effect on your mood, reducing anxiety and stress.

Also Read: Exposure Therapy: What it is & How does it work?

Forest therapy:

It is a method of immersing yourself in the forest among the trees. The aim is to create happiness and healing through direct interaction with nature. The community promoting forest therapy has two goals. The first is to provide a direct connection with nature and leave the modern, technology-driven world behind. The second goal is to help people in the community gain a greater appreciation for the natural world, hoping that they will also become advocates for protecting the surrounding forests. In Japanese, it is called Shinrin-Yoku, which means forest bathing. Shinrin-Yoku originated in the 1980s as a therapeutic method. Therapy is open-ended, meaning there is no clear end point but is a lifelong practice. Participants are encouraged to create a reciprocal relationship with nature.

By learning to enjoy nature, you will understand how nature benefits you. Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of this therapy in treating cardiovascular, immune, mood, and cognitive disorders, as well as anxiety and stress. Some popular forest bathing ecotherapy activities include: Take a guided tour through the Shinrin-Yoku forest Enjoy a nature walk Meditate in the forest Take a walk hiking and camping Wilderness walking Forest bathing can be an organized event or a less formal practice among family and friends. The essential element of any activity is being in the present moment.

Adventure therapy:

Eco therapy through adventure. It really is as exciting as it sounds. Simply follow a nature-based therapy and engage in a fun, healthy activity. Popular adventure-oriented Eco therapy activities include whitewater rafting, canoeing, hiking or skiing. Adventure therapy can utilize almost any activity in nature. What makes it a therapy is the recognition, definition and quantification of benefits. You can practice these activities yourself. However, it may be more beneficial to have a therapist who can help you feel comfortable participating in an activity, then determine its benefits by analyzing why and how it works.

Also Read: Humanistic therapy: process, uses, types, and advantages

The goal may be to build your confidence, learn to trust a higher power (or others as your guides), or simply let go of your inner struggles, whether just for a short time. Adventure therapy is often used to treat people recovering from addiction. Young adults with attention deficit disorder may benefit from this type of Eco therapy. It is also useful in treating anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses.

Emotional Wellness and Resilience:

Summing up everything stated so far, there is no doubt that Ecotherapy, as a healing modality, exerts profound transformative power on both the mind and body. By connecting to the earth, we are somewhat practicing grounding and inculcating mindfulness. Just by being present, in the ‘here’ and ‘now’ can make drastic changes in our mental states. It is important to take a step from a fast paced technological frenzy and connect with the nature, integrating a soothing influence. Conclusively ecotherapy presents a tender offer of a distinct pathway to emotional wellness and resilience.

  • King, Bonnie C., et al. “Ethics and ecotherapy: The shared experiences of ethical issues in practice.” Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning 23.4 (2023): 452-471.
  • Chaudhury, Pourabi, and Debanjan Banerjee. “”Recovering With Nature”: A Review of Ecotherapy and Implications for the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Frontiers in public health vol. 8 604440. 10 Dec. 2020, doi:10.3389/fpubh.2020.604440

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