Through efficient research, it has been shown that connecting with nature and spending time with it is important for an individual’s health. When we decide to spend time outdoors, we are generally more in movement and active while breathing in fresh air, which can be considered nature therapy. Allowing creation to surround us, we tend to begin to feel more mindful.
By a person simply walking outside and connecting with nature has the potential to reduce blood pressure and anxiety. When you are experiencing a struggle with addiction and mental health disorders, you’ll discover that mental health and nature are romantically involved. Being outside immersing yourself in nature therapy will make it less likely that you’ll relapse.
As William Blake stated, “To see the world in a grain of sand, and a heaven
in a wildflower is to hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour.”
Nature in Recovery
Nature can offer us a strong connection to the five senses: sound, taste, touch, smell, and sight. When we can embrace connecting with nature and nature therapy, we can let go of those thoughts telling us we need to constantly be doing something and just simply be. Once you can witness the beauty that nature holds, the right brain hemisphere is opened up with more of a focus on the following things:
- The beauty of nature and imagination
- A more holistic sense of connection
- Intuitive awareness of patterns
For a moment, it might be beneficial to consider the indigenous cultures who spent most of their time outdoors embracing nature. The indigenous people were able to constantly connect with:
- The calming and peace of nature
By connecting in nature, the individuals are allowing themselves to open up the four streams of awareness that are filtered through:
- Concept to knowing
Once you are aware of the benefits of nature therapy or connecting with nature, you will be more able to lose yourself in visual beauty. After you are brought to awareness, you’ll be able to connect to all the four streams of understanding that contribute to stability and clarity found in nature and mindfulness.
What Are the Best Nature-based Activities for Recovery?
- Practicing Tai’Chi (soft movement connecting to the Chi “life-giving energy”
- Remaining mindful of our diving source for all creation
- Going for a walk or hiking in nature
- Drawing, writing, painting in nature
- Meditation outdoors and prayer
- Making music outdoors
There was research conducted by Dr. Miles Richardson, a nature connection psychologist, who surveyed 2,000 individuals and revealed that over one-third of the city dwellers spend four times longer looking at a TV or a computer screen instead of spending time outside. Some individuals are afraid of becoming tree huggers. When you’re a tree hugger, and you’re in the presence of trees, your heart rate changes, and you are rebalancing and calming your system, which in turn regulates your emotions.
For example, consider the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. The trees have a way of occupying individual senses by providing a soothing influence. An actual physical touch of hugging a tree can produce a type of oneness and trust with nature.
What is Ecotherapy?
Ecotherapy is based on the idea that individuals are connected and impacted by nature. When figuring out what nature therapy or green therapy is, it’s essential to look to Theodore Rosnak, who developed ecotherapy within the emerging field of ecopsychology. Research has indicated that a nature walk reduces depression symptoms in 71% of participants as compared to 45% who decided to take a walk through a shopping center.
Think of ecotherapy as the practice of being in nature and to boost healing, growth, and mental health and nature. Individuals might refer to ecotherapy as green exercise, green care, horticulture therapy, and green therapy. The true meaning of nature therapy can vary from person to person, but generally, nature therapy involves the following:
- A supportive individual like a trained therapist
- Exploring and appreciating nature
- A green environment
Types of Nature Therapy
Animal-Assisted Therapy or Interventions
Both of the options above include spending valuable time with animals. Animal-assisted therapy focuses on building a therapeutic relationship with animals like horses or dogs. On the other side of the coin, animal-assisted interventions utilize locations such as a farm where you’re able to feed or pet the animals.
Arts and Crafts
Just like the name suggests, this form of therapy combines nature with creative crafts. You might be able to utilize your creative skills and paint in a park, forest, or green space. This form of therapy also includes using natural materials such as glass, wood, clay, or green spaces for art or inspiration.
This type of therapy uses activities that explore connecting with nature and can be done in a group setting or an individual. Rock climbing and rafting are great examples of this.
Dark nature activities will occur at nighttime, so an activity such as stargazing.
Conversation pairs nature with physical exercise and protection spaces.
With this kind of activity, you will participate in farming activities such as taking care of farm animals or growing crops.
This type of therapeutic activity involves gardening. So you might end up growing food in community gardens. Sometimes these kinds of therapeutic activities can lead to other activities such as selling home-grown crops at a farmers market.
During this form of therapy, physical activities will be done in green spaces. Examples of this type of therapy will be going on a walk, running, or taking a bike ride.
This kind of therapy works best in a group. You will most likely spend time in the wild experiencing activities like making shelters or hiking, which the benefits of hiking are remarkable. Many benefits of hiking will present to be great for an individual’s mind, heart, soul, and body. One of the main benefits of hiking is that it acts as a cardio workout.
The Benefits of Hiking
- Boost your mood. “Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety,” says Gregory A. Miller, Ph.D., president of the American Hiking Society. “Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.”
- Build strength in your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and muscles in your lower legs and hips
- Boost bone destiny, since walking acts as a weight-bearing exercise
- Improve your blood sugar levels and blood pressure
- Lower your risk of heart disease
- Sounds and smells of nature
- Help control your weight
- Fresh air and nice views
- Strengthen your core
- Improve balance
Wilderness therapy is under the umbrella of adventure therapy, which is a division of ecopsychology. This form of therapy is utilized to mimic the pressures and challenges found within social structures but is instead set up in a negative free atmosphere and, in turn, processed by trained therapists. The benefit of wilderness programs for the youth is the experimental process that requires specifically the youth to trust in the following:
- Sense of inner knowing
Due to the cognitive, social, and physical demands of wilderness therapy might not be as effective for older adults. This form of treatment is not as effective for individuals with certain physical and mental disabilities or highly young children.
How Does Nature Therapy Help?
Nature therapy helps through an individual spending time in natural environments that can be linked to many mental health and nature benefits. For example, being engaged in a green space has been linked to fewer depression symptoms, lower stress levels, and less anxiety. By spending time in nature, it helps individuals with depression and kids with attention issues think more clearly.
Patricia Hasbach, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and licensed professional counselor, is an expert in ecotherapy. She recalled an individual who was a patient in a cardiac rehabilitation center who was initially reluctant about starting therapy.
“He was pretty nervous about talking with me, and I suggested, ‘You want to just take a walk outside?’ And I just noticed how his voice changed,” Hasbach stated. “He became more relaxed, and that was my first ‘aha’ moment that there’s something here that I need to pay attention to.”
“It’s about noticing what’s around you and increasing our awareness of ourselves in relation to our world and environment,” Lung says. “Just the symbiotic benefits of being outside.”
There have been studied nature’s healing effects discovered in the following areas:
- Mood modification
- Medical recovery
- Lowered stress
- Less pain
Is Nature Therapy for Everyone?
Not everyone finds the benefits in nature therapy that has mental health conditions. Nature therapy can be done anywhere, whether an individual lives in a suburban, urban, or rural area. It can involve farms, forests, parks, or gardens.
The amount of physical therapy that an individual can receive while engaging in their mental health and nature depends on the individual. It is the most effective to tailor the mental health and nature activity based on the individual. Nature therapy can be paired with the following:
- Creative and art therapies
- Talk therapy
“Ecotherapy is one tool that you have to draw on to strengthen and deepen the work that you’re doing with your clients or your patients,” Hasbach stated.
The Advantages of Engaging in Nature
Nature is the ability to provide a backdrop of a person healing naturally. The challenge lies in taking the time to engage in connecting with nature and nature therapy. Mental health and nature have a connection.
Individuals will be able to enjoy being present, which is difficult in a generation of cell phones and computers. It’s common for an individual to see people sitting in nature yet not paying any attention to the beauty that is surrounding them. These individuals you might notice sitting with a tablet, computer, or cell phone.
Although these individuals are found enjoying the fresh air, they are still missing out on the peace that you would experience while engaging in nature therapy. It’s not always cohesive to spend much time in nature therapy. However, various other alternatives will make you feel like you are right there in nature. There are movies that can make you feel as though you are there in nature too.
An individual can also watch music videos called “Moving Art,” which combines nature and music. It is key to be able to meditate on the fact that natural beauty is surrounding us when we are able to take the time to pay attention to it. If you are currently in recovery, there is value in taking time to watch nature or take a nature walk. It can take your mind off of cravings that can arise.
The closer you get to establishing a connection with nature, and realize that the connection to nature is imperative for our survival. Nature will act as a reminder that everything is continuously changing, and life happens to connect to nature. It’s important to remember that nature smooths our ability to work on becoming mindful observers from a place of awareness.
Recovery Awaits at Coastal Detox
Coastal Detox offers holistic approaches to addiction detox and recovery. Connecting with nature can be a great way to stay sober in recovery. Remember that nature is healing.