I can remember lying in a big opened field as a child, looking up at the swaying tree tops against the blue sky, smelling the sweet grass baking in the summer sun, hearing the songs of a cast of different birds and feeling the afternoon breeze gently caress my young face. My jittery little body soaked up the warm, stabilizing calm of the nature surrounding me. I felt connected to the steady strength of the earth below me, supporting me. I had never taken a meditation or yoga class and mindfulness was not really a “thing” yet. But there is no doubt about it, this was my first meditative experience. I was an anxious child who was instinctively drawn to the seemingly endless soothing qualities of nature. Being in nature has become a constant source of solace for me. It allows me to slow down, feel grounded, and connect to something bigger than myself.
I felt connected to the steady strength of the earth below me, supporting me.
Due to the positive impact of nature on my own physical and mental health, I decided to devote some of my graduate research to the field of ecotherapy. Ecotherapy is an umbrella term for the different nature-based practices that aim to nurture the human-nature connection from which psychological healing may be derived (Chalquist, 2009). Examples of ecotherapy range from outdoor exercise, horticulture, to more passive interventions like looking at images of nature or living in greener environments. Not to my surprise, research indicates that nearly all forms of ecotherapy have positive effects on mental health, including stress reduction, increased self-esteem, and improved cognitive function (Pretty, 2004). Being in nature supports an increased sense of well-being in humans.
Research indicates that nearly all forms of ecotherapy have positive effects on mental health
It is spring time along the Shoreline of Connecticut and nature is once again showcasing all of her brilliant colors. It is a kind of re-awakening of the earth after a long winter’s slumber. Many of us are understandably growing restless with the quarantine and required social distancing. You might consider taking a restorative, meditative walk in the woods and testing out nature’s healing effects for yourself. Give yourself a moment to take in the natural beauty around you, smell the fresh new grass, listen to new life flutter, and allow the warm air to wrap itself around you. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wisely said, we may begin to “Adopt the Pace of Nature: her secret is patience.”
Written by Katya Musacchio, MS, LPCA
Chalquist, C., (2009). A look at the ecotherapy research evidence. Ecopsychology, 64-74. doi: 10.1089/eco.2009.0003.
Pretty, J. (2004). How Nature Contributes to Mental and Physical Health. Spirituality and Health International, vol 5 (2), 68-78. doi: 10.1002/shi.220.