Spring has sprung! The sky is blue, the sun is out, birds are chirping, and flowers are starting to bloom. It’s a beautiful time of year, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to start spending more time outside and bringing nature back into your everyday life.
If the beauty of the natural world isn’t enough to inspire you to start spending more time outside, then consider this: being exposed to nature comes with a variety of health benefits, particularly for your mental health. And while spending even as little as 5 minutes outdoors can provide benefits, adopting a practice of nature therapy can help you fully embrace the wonders of nature and all that it has to offer.
What is Nature Therapy?
Nature therapy, also called ecotherapy, is about intentionally reconnecting with our natural roots so we can benefit from all the therapeutic effects that nature has on our bodies and minds. It’s a practice that stems from the idea that we, as humans, are inherently connected to the world around us. That our environment can impact us just as much as we can impact it. Because of this, when we take the time to reconnect with the natural world, we can reap several positive benefits.
The Benefits of Nature Therapy
There is a growing body of research that shows that adopting practices such as nature therapy can positively impact your overall well-being. Here are just a few of the benefits you may experience when you pick up the practice.
It Helps Reduce Stress and Improve Cognitive Function
We are always busy with something—work, school, home management, relationships…the list goes on. It’s no secret that trying to balance all the ins and outs of everyday life can cause us to feel stressed or anxious more often than we’d like. With so much going on, we can all benefit from slowing down, taking a breather, and finding ways to relieve stress. Spending more time in nature can help with all of this.
Research has shown that both the visual and auditory input our brains receive from being in a natural environment can help us calm down and recover from stressful situations. Nature therapy isn’t only useful for recovering from stress, though. A variety of studies have shown that even spending as little as 10 minutes outside can be an effective measure for preventing stress.
What’s more? Spending time in natural environments can also help reduce anxiety, improve memory and attention span, and enhance a variety of cognitive functions in people of all ages! So it’s a win-win for everyone.
It Elevates Your Mood
Being near green spaces or nature is known to elevate your mood and lead to increased feelings of happiness. Research has shown that spending time outdoors can help decrease feelings of depression and increase feelings of happiness and other positive moods. Additionally, spending more time in nature can also lead to other benefits such as a greater sense of well-being, more positive social interactions, improved self-esteem, and more meaningfulness in life.
It Boosts Physical Health
When you are out and about in the natural world, it has a positive effect on your physical health. Wondering how? Well, when you are outside, there is a good chance you will engage in some form of physical activity. You might take a walk, do some yoga, or tend to your garden. You may even connect with people from your community to go for a hike, play a yard game, or hit up the local farmers market. Since being outside naturally encourages us to be more active, it’s a great way to support and maintain good physical health.
It Boosts Your Creativity
Most of us have felt unmotivated or stuck creatively at some point or another, which can be frustrating, to say the least. While the usual solutions like setting aside the project at hand or stepping away from your workspace for a little while may help occasionally, if you truly want to get your creative juices flowing, you should put on your walking shoes and spend some time outside. Breathing in the fresh air, listening to the sounds of nature, and taking in the beauty of your surroundings may just unlock some new ideas.
Common Types of Nature Therapy
No matter where you live or how far you have to travel to visit a beach or forest, there are ways you can practice nature therapy without having to drive hours away from home.
Also known as Shinrin-yoku in Japanese, forest bathing is a tried and tested form of nature therapy. It involves spending time in a forest or wooded area where you can take in your surroundings and truly connect with the natural world. This is best done by sitting or laying in a comfortable position and using all your senses to take in your surroundings and keep your mind in the present moment.
Many places around the world have a type of nature walk area you can enjoy. It may be a nearby forest, animal conservatory, or nature trail at a local park. You can enjoy the activity solo so you have time and space to reflect on your thoughts, or you can invite a friend or family member along and make it a fun social outing.
If you live in an urban area and don’t have quick access to a forest, beach, or nature-filled park, you can create your own tranquil, natural space by taking up gardening. Digging in the dirt and seeing the fruits of your hard work is very therapeutic and a great way to reap the benefits of nature therapy without having to travel far from home. Don’t have room for a garden? See if your area has a community garden you can participate in.
A beach is a perfect place for some nature therapy. A walk in the sand, especially barefoot, with the sound of the wind and waves around you is a wonderful way to calm your nerves and boost your mood.
Camping or Backpacking
If you’re feeling adventurous, then a weekend camping trip or backpacking excursion may be the perfect type of nature therapy for you. You’ll get to spend ample time outdoors, enjoying all that nature has to offer with the added benefit of getting a healthy dose of physical activity and excitement.
Tips For Your Nature Therapy Journey
No matter which type of nature therapy you choose, here are some tips to help you make the most of it.
- Plan ahead. As you’ve probably noticed, some of these ideas require a bit of planning. Take your current circumstances into account, do a little research on what is available in your area, and make plans ahead of time so you don’t feel rushed or stressed.
- Stay Safe. Many of these activities, like camping, nature trails, and forest bathing, can take you to places that you are unfamiliar with. When planning your activity, do some research to learn more about the area, what kind of wildlife you may encounter there, whether or not you will have phone service, and other information you can use to help keep yourself safe and comfortable during your outing.
- Start Small. If you are worried that nature therapy activities may not be feasible given your current life circumstances, consider starting small. Instead of spending a whole afternoon in a forest, maybe you will spend 10 minutes walking around your local park at least once a week. If planting an entire garden this spring isn’t feasible, plant a few seeds in a small planter box in your backyard that you can regularly tend to. Your nature therapy experiences don’t need to be extravagant and time-consuming to be effective, they just need to involve spending time outside where you can be intentional and fully present.
- Commit, Commit, Commit! Once you identify nature therapy activities that work for you, make it a point to engage in at least one of them daily, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If you have days where you can’t commit the time to the full activity, at least make it a point to step outside and soak up the sun for a few minutes because even the smallest amount of time can lead to positive benefits.
Embrace What Nature Has to Offer
As a woman in menopause you can greatly benefit from incorporating nature therapy into their daily routine to promote a healthier and more fulfilling life. The natural world offers countless benefits that can improve their physical and mental well-being, making it a valuable addition to their self-care routine that they won’t regret.