Key Benefits of Nature Therapy

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I only went out for a walk, and finally, concluded to stay out ’til sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
— John Muir

Nature has the power to fill up our cups, if we let it. A feeling of zen can be experienced if our rhythms and frequencies are in sync with the natural environment. That is where nature therapy comes in.

Nature therapy, or ecotherapy, is about utilizing what is all around us — nature — for healing. It focuses on the synchronizations between humans and nature as a form of preventative medicine. We can rid or mitigate our anxiety, depression and stress by finding internal peace in the natural environment. In fact, nature therapy has proven more successful than traditional therapy and medication by using a variety of techniques to improve mental health, specifically through immersing our senses within nature.

How do we find peace? Additional modes of healing such as meditation, journaling, eating healthy and exercising are equally as important in aiding the nature therapy process, in addition to relaxing our minds. Moving through any environment engages three main “attention networks” in the brain: the executive network includes the intellectual, task-focused work mode; the spatial network orients us; and the default network is our day-dreaming, goal-setting, mind-wandering brain that is credited with empathy, creativity and insight. The default network and executive network cannot engage at the same time, therefore our default network allows our hardworking executive functions to rest. 

In the natural environment, our attention network functions better because our executive network is not in overload, so we have the capacity to let our minds wander and rest in the wilderness, and allow nature to consume all of our senses to become more relaxed.

Frederick Law Olmstead said it best, “Nature employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.” Nature is engrained in us, therefore it comes as no surprise that nature therapy can help reduce cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stress levels, aggression, as well as heal depression and anxiety. When we get closer to nature, we get closer to ourselves and allow our brains to rest.

Nature is free and accessible to all, and it makes logical sense for the medical field to connect people with nature as a form of preventative medicine and therapy. We need doctors and psychologists to be backed up by tangible results and help them speak out about connecting people to nature for restoration.