Did you know there is a therapy out there which researchers have found is just as effective against depression as psychotherapy or medication. What’s more you don’t have to pay £70 a session or swallow pills to get the benefits of it. It’s completely free and accessible to all of us. And actually, it’s not so new. It’s been around longer than we have. It’s called ecotherapy – in other words, contact with nature. Researchers at the University of Essex found that amongst people suffering from depression, 90% felt a higher level of self-esteem after a walk through a country park and 75% reported they felt less depressed. Another survey by the same team found that 94% percent of people with mental illnesses believed that contact with nature put them in a more positive mood.
So, why does nature have this effect on us? When we think about it our ancestors were closely bonded to the natural environment. It’s only in recent centuries that the majority of us have become city dwellers. So, when we go out in nature – even if it’s just to the park, on a soul level we’re reconnecting to that ancestral feeling. Nature also has a calming effect and opens us up to the idea that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. How many artists, writers, photographers and poets have written about the spiritual experiences they’ve had when being in nature? A walk in a natural environment allows us to de-stress and for our brains to down-shift. It allows us to get in touch with our natural rhythms and enter an almost meditative state and let’s face it – the sounds of nature – surf, birdsong, the wind – are a lot more soothing than cars, piped music and machinery!
If that were not enough I believe nature can enhance our psychic skills! Pay attention to what comes to you when you walk in nature. Ask a question and then walk in silence and see if a revelation emerges. Being in nature allows us to forge a spiritual connection with the natural world. As a result, it can help us develop our intuition as well as inner stillness and of course, the mere act of walking helps us get fit and boosts our energy levels. It clears the mind and can fill us with inspiration. It can also reconnect us to a feeling of being connected to the whole, we can become one with our environment and then feel a reconnection to others.
So, next time you feel depressed instead of opening the fridge door, pouring that glass of wine or embarking on that retail therapy binge, perhaps you should consider putting on your walking boots and trying ecotherapy instead. It’s not just your mental health that could benefit, but your physical and spiritual ones as well.
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