You go to your doctor because you’ve been struggling with stress. He takes his prescription pad and writes down which park for you to visit, for how long, and which days.
Seem a bit farfetched?
According to an article in the Atlantic, it’s already happening. And it’s likely to occur more and more as professionals and the general population embrace the benefits of ecotherapy.
In this post, you’ll also see evidence of the fact that ecotherapy is a form of mindfulness, which is why it is such a powerful healer.
Plus, we’ll look at how to keep kids connected to nature and give them a head start on reaping the benefits for a lifetime of well-being.
What is Ecotherapy?
Ecotherapy is also known as nature therapy or green therapy. It’s based on the growing body of research and knowledge that indicates people get physical and psychological benefits from being in contact with nature.
The form of contact can range from viewing images of nature or listening to sounds, to being near nature, to being immersed in nature.
The foundation for engaging ecotherapy is the understanding that we are part of a larger web of life that includes all of nature. And so, we are not separate from it.
When we watch a houseplant grow, enjoy the company of our dog, or walk in a neighborhood park, we are reconnecting with the natural wholeness of who we are.
Ecotherapy is, in fact, a form of mindfulness, which is why it has such a powerful healing effect on us. You can read more about that in the section below.
How Does Ecotherapy Work?
Ecotherapy works because we are a part of nature ourselves. When we deliberately connect with it or immerse ourselves in it, we are becoming whole.
The natural world is our home, and so, whenever we make that connection, it reinforces our sense of belonging and fitting into the bigger picture.
Nature also makes us feel better because it’s a natural source of positive energy that renews our energy. So, when we spend time with the natural world, we’re filling up our tank, so to speak.
It’s why gardening is so popular.
Over the last decades, we’ve been moving farther and farther away from our connection with nature in daily living and becoming more involved with technological advances.
Spending large blocks of time involved with electronic devices is not helpful for our healing and renewal.
Ecotherapy is a product of our natural need to return to nature. And, the movement is well underway, wrapped up in the blanket of therapy.
Nature and Mindfulness Connection
Another reason people are inherently drawn to the natural world and its healing is that being in nature is an easy way to become centered in the present moment.
All elements of nature draw us quickly out of the mental chatter of our mind and distract us from inner turmoil. We reside in the peace of the “now” whenever we encounter the natural world.
It doesn’t matter if it’s paddling down the Amazon River or tending to our houseplants.
The beauty and magnificence of nature bring out the sense of awe and wonder that is buried inside all of us as we rush through daily activities, and it deepens our consciousness.
Consciousness-raising activities, such as walking mindfully, are powerful tools. Still, they can be taken up a level when you include the natural world in the mix.
So, the next time you go for a mindful walk, try doing it in the park or along the beach for added benefits.
Ecotherapy has grown out of the application of ecopsychology, which developed from a combination of several traditions and areas of study.
There isn’t a governing body that provides certification in ecotherapy for those who want formal training.
However, many individual institutions are offering their own training and certification in this growing field of interest. And what you are exposed to in the courses can take different forms.
There are sometimes two different approaches to ecopsychology. One way is to focus on how the individual heals by exposure to nature. The other aim looks at healing for both the client and the environment itself.
It is common for people who receive a healing effect from nature to feel moved to return the favor, often becoming involved in conservation and environmental efforts.
If you’re interested in ecotherapy certification, do an online search for the term. In the results, you’ll see some of the places that offer it.
You could also check with your local university or college to see if they have a list of places offering this type of program. It is usually associated with general departments of psychological training and certification.
How to Do Ecotherapy at Home
There are retreats and centers where you can go to do ecotherapy with a leader, alone or with a group. But you don’t have to spend money or travel to get the benefits of communing with the natural world.
And while we’re on that topic, if you decide to receive ecotherapy from an individual or from a center, do careful research to make sure it’s what you are looking for, and that it’s legitimate.
When a new area of service is unregulated, you could end up finding the value doesn’t meet the expectation.
Some ideas for things you can do at home to reap the benefits of connecting with nature include:
- Create an indoor or outdoor garden
- Sit in your backyard garden
- Spend time in a nearby park or greenspace
- Go to the beach for the day
- Start a plot in a community garden near your home
- Spend time with your pet or volunteer at a shelter
- Watch videos of nature
- Decorate your home with natural landscapes
- Volunteer with a local conservation group
- Help with a community cleanup
- Listen to recorded nature sounds
- Do yoga or a mindfulness activity in your backyard or the park
- Read books about nature
- Take up birdwatching
Use these suggestions or come up with others to get in touch with the natural world. Make it as straightforward or as complex as suits your preferences. It’s all about what works for you.
And, you don’t have to engage in ecotherapy alone. Make it a social event or use the opportunity to create some quality family time.
Ecotherapy is a rapidly growing area of interest because it makes natural sense for us to seek healing in the place that we came from – our source.
It embodies our inherent need to return to the place where we are most grounded and centered in the lifeforce.
It’s important to instill in children a connection to the natural world. If you do it early and consistently, it’s something they will carry with them in life for greater well-being.
Let’s look at how that can happen.
The Benefits of Nature for Kids
According to Roots of Action, there are many benefits of nature for children and families. These positive points include:
- Stress relief
- Improved short-term memory
- Increased physical and mental energy
- Better concentration
- More creativity
- Physical health benefits
By playing outside and in nature, children learn to take risks, grow physically and psychologically, and develop a sense of wonder, curiosity, and awe.
It’s no wonder it’s so important to get kids into the outdoors and immerse them in their natural surroundings. It’s what we are all a part of, and the connection keeps us centered in who we truly are.
Use the following 11 ideas to get kids connected to nature, both indoors and outdoors. Or, use them to make your own connection.
Outdoor Activities to Connect with Nature
If you’re wanting to connect with nature, getting outside is the first step. The following ideas will help you get started with outdoor fun and learning.
1. Go on Family Hikes or Walks
A favorite way that many families get out in nature is to take a hike or a walk. You can gear this activity to the ability of the members and adjust as needed.
And, it doesn’t have to be a deep-woods expedition. A simple walk around your neighborhood park will give kids a chance to encounter trees, plants, and some wildlife.
2. Go Snowshoeing or Skiing
You don’t have to put off going out to explore nature when the weather turns colder. It’s a perfect time to get out on snowshoes or skis and see what nature is up to.
Your family can learn how nature is different during the colder months compared to the warmer months, as it moves through the yearly cycles.
3. Take a Walk in the Rain
You don’t need to only explore nature when the weather is fine. Kids often love to walk in the rain and splash in the puddles.
It’s a perfect time to notice how different everything looks and that smells are sharper and more pronounced. It creates awareness and develops a sense of seeing your surroundings in the present moment.
4. Explore Your Local Area
With staycations becoming a popular vacation idea for families, it’s an excellent opportunity to get out as a group and see what kind of natural beauty surrounds your home region.
There are probably local hiking trails, parks, lakes, seashores, and beaches to explore and learn about as you soak up the natural environment. And, if you live in a large urban area, make it a point to find the local green spaces.
5. Spend the Day at the Beach
There are multiple ways to embrace the natural world at the seashore. It doesn’t matter if it’s a smooth sandy beach or a rocky stretch of land. You can:
- Collect and identify shells
- Identify creatures and plants in tidal pools
- Go birdwatching
- Identify sounds with your eyes closed
- Play in the waves and pretend you’re an animal
- Take bags and do a trash cleanup
The seashore is a treasure trove of opportunities to interact with nature and absorb the positive energy. It’s also an ideal place to introduce children to sitting in silence with nature as a mindfulness activity.
6. Eco Volunteer in Nature
Eco volunteering is becoming a popular way to engage in preserving the natural environment and wildlife. Depending on the age of your children, there may be ideal opportunities in your local area.
Talk to your municipal government and see what’s available in your region that would be suitable for kids or families. It’s important for children to learn about conservation.
7. Create a Garden or Build a Greenhouse
On your own property, you can turn gardening into a family activity. Kids like nothing better than getting down in the dirt to explore. They also love to watch things grow, and it teaches connection and patience.
You could also put up a greenhouse to start some plants early. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Your local building supply store may have a simple design or kit to put one up quickly.
And, if you don’t have space on your property for a garden or greenhouse, many towns have community gardens where you can use a plot over the growing season. Or, if you have a patio or balcony, you can do some container gardening.
Indoor Activities to Connect with Nature
You don’t always have to go outside to connect with nature. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, there’s plenty to do inside.
8. Watch Nature Documentaries
With the availability of streaming services, there are no shortages of nature documentaries to watch together as a family. You can often find programs that are geared primarily toward children.
It’s a great way to have a family movie night and keep it focused on nature. Bring on the treats as you see what you can learn about animals and their habitats.
9. Do Indoor Gardening
You don’t have to leave all the gardening outdoors. Early in the spring, you can have the children plant things in starter pots inside to get ready for the growing season.
And, you could always start an indoor herb garden that stays inside all year round. You can add flavor to your dishes when the family has a cooking night.
10. Read Books about Nature
There’s no end to the resource books available about animals and nature. Reading with children is, in itself, an enjoyable activity. When you couple it with the natural world, it’s a double treat.
You don’t have to stick with non-fiction works, either. There are lots of fiction works about animals that will heighten a child’s sense of the natural world.
11. Arts and Crafts with Nature
Another great indoor activity to connect with nature is to do arts and crafts projects. Children can use a variety of materials to create natural masterpieces.
You can even do collecting trips for things such as leaves, driftwood, and rocks to use in the projects. Let their imaginations run wild as they express their ideas about the natural world around them.
There’s no shortage of outdoor and indoor activities to help children reinforce their connection to the natural world. Find out what your children enjoy and make the most of it.
Ecotherapy is a new word for an old idea. Our connection to the natural world has always been promoted as a source of healing and increased well-being. For many people, it’s free and easy to accomplish, making it a positive addition to your daily routine.