Need to clear your head and boost your mood? Why not try ecotherapy? Here’s why we should all enjoy the benefits of spending time in the great outdoors.
Ecotherapy is a way of promoting mental and physical wellbeing through outdoor activities. This modern approach to health and wellness is something we should all be incorporating into our everyday lives because it embraces the all-important connection between people and the land.
While there are many scientific studies which back up the theory of nature aiding our wellbeing, the concept is nothing new in te ao Māori, where that connection has always been of the utmost importance.
And there really is no doubt that getting out in nature is good for the soul. Being among the trees and feeling a cool breeze on your skin helps us to unwind and de-stress. Spending time in nature promotes relaxation and calm and is an easy way to boost your mood. In fact, research has proven that being active in green environments can boost your mood and self-esteem far more than exercising alone indoors.
Being among the trees and feeling a cool breeze on your skin helps us to unwind and de-stress
In New Zealand, we’re lucky as we are often only a short drive away from spectacular mountains, pristine beaches and cobalt blue rivers. So make the most of your weekends by rugging up and heading outdoors.
Bring the outside in
Nature can be a powerful healer, so much so that a recent study showed that by simply placing a pot plant in hospital rooms, recovery times were faster with the addition of greenery. So, for those who are less able to get out and about, consider gifting them an indoor plant – and perhaps treat yourself to one, too. It can be especially helpful for your work from home space, to help your mental wellbeing on those long days spent indoors.
Take a walk
There’s good reason why many healthcare providers are now prescribing time in nature, with recent studies suggesting it can relieve symptoms of serious health issues like heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety and attention disorders. A 2015 study found that people who walked for 90 minutes in an outdoor setting, such as a forest or nature park, were less likely to ruminate –a hallmark of depression and anxiety – and had less activity in an area of the brain linked to depression than people who walked in an urban areas.
Reduce the pressure
One in five Kiwis experience high blood pressure, yet a recent study showed sufferers were able to get their hypertension under control if they spent time walking in nature. Head to your favourite spot at the weekend, or make it part of your daily routine – it will do wonders for your health.
From the moment we wake up, our lives are constantly flooded with technology. Stepping into nature and spending some time offline can do wonders for us all. Without the distractions of our phones, we can really tune into the people we are with. If you’re alone, the break from technology allows you to fully immerse yourself in your surroundings, giving you greater access to nature’s healing properties.
A recent study of 20,000 people found that those who spent two hours a week in green spaces, like parks or other natural environments – either all at once or spaced over seven days – were substantially more likely to report good health and mental wellbeing than those who didn’t. This shows us we don’t need to put aside huge amounts of time to reap the benefits. Take any opportunity you can to get out and about, even 20 minutes a day will help. Go to the park with the kids, head to the beach or pack a picnic and head off on an adventure.
In stark contrast to the bustling life of offices and cities, time in nature requires you to focus your mind in an effortless way. Studies have shown that this is an antidote for stress. Nature can lower stress hormones in the body, reduce nervous system arousal and reduces anxiety.
5 of my favourite family-friendly places
- MAUAO/MOUNT MAUNGANUI Tauranga
- AWAROA/GODLEY HEAD Christchurch
- TE MATA PEAK Hawke’s Bay
- ROB ROY GLACIER Wanaka
- MAUNGAKIEKIE/ONE TREE HILL Auckland