Something that most of us humans could agree on is that there is undeniably something magic and healing about being in nature. You cannot put it in words, but you feel it deep within – it awakens the mind, stirs the heart and inspires the spirit.
As little as 5 minutes absorbed within nature makes us feel healed, nourished, energised and restored. Nature gives us strength, drains away all negative energy and fills us to the brim with positive energy.
Nature has always played a powerful role in ancient cultures and with enlightened masters. Buddha for instance left his palace at a very young age to seek liberation in the woods. He even advised his followers to meditate in the woods or under a tree to reach higher states of self-awareness.
“There are increased benefits of spending more time in nature and leaving technology behind such as improved short term memory, enhanced working memory, better problem solving, greater creativity, lower levels of stress and higher feelings of positive well being.” - David Strayer, Dept of Psychology, University of Utah.
Green therapy, eco-therapy or nature bathing. These are just several names for the same wonderful practice that is helping thousands of people across the world. But what exactly is this rainforest-sounding trend? Even better, what are the benefits? If you love nature, self-help therapies and stress reduction, then buckle up. This article is for you.
A SHORT HISTORY
Everything started with a guy called Theodore Roszak. Both Roszak and those who followed in his footsteps believe that humans are a part of Earth’s environment. This makes it fundamentally different from all other kinds of psychology, which focuses almost exclusively on the patient’s relationship with his or her own mind. When we reconnect and heal our relationship with nature, powerful healing starts to take place. This is the root of the different kinds of therapies that fall under the umbrella term of “ecopsychology” or “nature therapy.”
SCIENCE EVEN AGREES IN THE HEALING MAGIC OF NATURE
If you’re not a tree hugger and deep down can't help but think that communicating with the spirit of a mushroom sounds too ridiculous for you, don’t worry. Nature therapy isn’t something somebody sucked out of their thumb to make money. It's a grounding practice that you can do for free - no purchase of some trending snake oil required . Nor is it the result of people's ego's wanting their own desires and beliefs to be acknowledged as facts. Several physicians and scientists have found that eco-therapy brings real physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
“In clinical studies, we have seen that 2 hours of nature sounds a day significantly reduce stress hormones up to 800% and activates 500 to 600 DNA segments known to be responsible for healing and repairing the body.” - Dr. Joe Dispenza
PICK A BRANCH AND SWING WITH IT
Nature therapy is not only free but has a wide panorama of branches. This is perfect since no two people are alike. The variety means that your perfect brand of green thinking is out there. But what exactly are they? Not to sound vague, but nature therapy can genuinely be anything that’s related to nature. In that sense, you can create your own experience depending on what brings you peace of mind and physical relaxation and rejuvenation. But let’s be more specific and list the ones that already exist.
This flexible branch can be practiced alone, with a group, in the park or in your own back yard. Nature meditation can be done in two ways. The practitioner sits calmly and remains aware of their surroundings, just letting life be and finding peace within the moment. Thoughts should be secondary to listening to the sound of birds, feeling the wind on your skin and even listening to urban sounds.
Secondly, many people try to find a lesson in the nature around them. For instance, someone struggling to start their life anew or struggling to let go of something can meditate on new flowers, budding shoots and baby animals in spring. They can learn that life follows a cycle and that rebirth is always possible and beautiful.
Here’s another smorgasbord to pick and choose from. Basically, any plant or garden related activity counts. Do you love planting flowers? Growing seeds? Taking care of a vegetable patch? The sight of growing plants, the smell of the earth and harvesting your own food feels wonderful. Garden therapy is not just good for mental relaxation, it’s also one of the biggest calorie busters you’ll find on the market. All that digging, carrying and moving keeps the body active and strong.
Animal therapy can be as simple as spending time with your pet. However, experts have recognised the healing power of animals long before this nature thing became popular. Therapy dogs bring relief to children in hospitals and lonely people in old age homes. Prison programs involving animals have also seen a remarkable change in the individuals involved, including showing more compassion and reduced aggression.
This is different than normal outdoor activities. In order to draw the benefits of nature, one must exercise in a natural environment with awareness. While walking, hiking, jogging or swimming, you can soak up the peace of the views, feel the water, grass, and wind against your skin. The idea here is to connect your body with nature and to move while staying aware of this connection.
THE BENEFITS OF NATURE THERAPY
Human beings are natural creatures. But to improve our lives, we became stuck in cement jungles, work under bright lights and face the glow of computer screens for long hours every day. The modern life is great in some ways, but we all need that little green something to keep the balance. Here are the benefits of nature therapy and as you’ll see, they are pretty much essential to our well-being.
It’s Beneficial For Your Memory
Our brains are overloaded every day. A million things on your To-Do list, calls to make, things to buy for the household, and rules and regulations make things overly complicated. This often leads to problems with short term memory. Thankfully, the solution appears to be simple and enjoyable. Several studies have found that walking in nature promotes memory retention. The same scientists also discovered that people who walked inside buildings for relaxation didn’t receive the same benefit.
It’s A Stress Buster
If we must handcuff a single suspect and say, “You are responsible for most of my discomfort,” then it’s Mr. Stress. This octopus-like entity causes fear, anxiety, depression, indecisiveness, impulsive behaviour, and disease. Nature therapy has a remarkable effect in this case. It lowers stress hormones and your heart rate. Although nature activities cannot eradicate depression and anxiety, you’ll always find temporary relief.
Nature Therapy Boosts Energy
This is a major perk for anyone suffering from fatigue. It doesn’t matter if the exhaustion is mental, physical or both, spending time outdoors can reduce tired feelings. Office workers with a great view also report experiencing less fatigue during their job hours. For some reason, the beauty and connection with something natural has the power to uplift one’s mind and body.
Reduced Physical Ailments
Here’s a quick view of the physical benefits you can expect from regularly engaging in your favourite eco-therapy.
- Lower levels of inflammation
- A stronger immune system
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced chance of developing cancer or diabetes
- Better vision
- A longer life
Better Focus And Creativity
Finally, green therapy has been known to improve waning attention. For this reason, it’s a good idea to provide such opportunities to kids with attention disorders and people suffering from diseases like Alzheimer's. Students can also benefit during exam time when their busy lives, fewer hours of sleep and a lot of study material conspire to kill their attention span.
If you love being creative or your work has a creative element to it, then you’ll know that coming up with good ideas isn’t an endless resource. There are days when we just cannot think of a single worthwhile sentence, story or design. Nature therapy can be your secret weapon! Studies have discovered that regular walks or other types of engagement with the outdoors increased the volunteers’ creativity by nearly fifty percent.
NATURE THERAPY AS PART OF DAILY LIFE
The best things about nature therapy are that it’s free and there are no known side-effects. Anyone, regardless of their age or gender, can reap the rewards. Perhaps the most heartening fact is that this is a blanket therapy. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you’re trying to heal from or what condition you’re trying to manage, nature therapy can be beneficial for you.
To keep balanced, grounded and emotionally resilient in the over-stimulating and noisy world make 15 minutes of nature therapy a daily ritual.
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