Nature As Therapy: Why The Outdoors Is Good For Your Wellbeing

In the current climate, it’s easy to get caught up in the bustle of everyday life. That’s why it’s more important than ever to look after our physical and mental wellbeing. We often forget to take the time to appreciate the simple things in life, such as the nature around us. In today’s high-tech world, we tend to view time in nature as a pleasant pastime or a guilty pleasure when there are so many other important things to do. 

Forest and lake meditation

But, can spending time in nature truly be considered a wellness activity, alongside other lifestyle practices such as exercise and good nutrition? 

According to several studies, the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes.”

What is nature therapy?

Nature therapy, also known as ecotherapy or green therapy, is a practice as old as time itself. Greek philosopher and physician, Hippocrates, stated it plainly more than 2,000 years ago: “Nature itself is the best physician.”

The concept of nature therapy is to connect us to nature mindfully through our senses and feelings. It describes the idea of healing our physical and mental wellbeing by being in beautiful landscapes. Research has demonstrated several health benefits to spending time in nature in a relaxed and tranquil way, 

Some of these benefits include:

  • Boosted immune system 
  • Reduced stress
  • Increased ability to focus 
  • Better mood and quality of sleep 

If you are just starting out on your journey to wellness? You might find these 5 Steps to Improve Your Wellness useful.

Japanese forest

How to immerse yourself in natural therapy

Practising nature therapy is incredibly easy. To get started, you just need to bring yourself to a peaceful outdoor setting, perhaps in a woodland or in a nearby park or meadow. If you prefer the company and expertise of others, you can participate in guided programmes and experience days.  Or, you can simply choose to explore nature on your own terms.

Take a look at the following suggestions for getting started on your journey to a happier, healthier mind and body.

The art of shinrin-yoku — forest bathing

Shinrin-yoku originated in Japan during the early 1980s. Translated as “forest bathing” it is the practice of mindfully walking in a forest for the sake of one’s health. Somewhat different from hiking, Shinrin-yoku is a slow, meditative immersion in the forest environment. 

This form of therapy requires you to be wholly aware of your surroundings, using your senses to interact with the environment around you. From the fresh scent of pine trees to the twittering of birds, these elements come together to create a tranquil atmosphere for you to experience. It’s a way of reconnecting yourself with nature while also being able to take a much-needed break from your hectic routine.

To make the most of your forest bathing, try switching off your smartphone — a  major distractor for so many of us. It’s also best to avoid feeling like you need to rush back anywhere, so choose a day where you can immerse yourself in ecotherapy without having to worry about upcoming deadlines or any other commitments. Not only will this help to restore a sense of calm, but it’s likely you’ll notice all the small details you would otherwise miss on a typical stroll.

Practice mindfulness when outdoors

Mindfulness is an effective therapy for improving your overall mental health. It’s a simple, yet powerful tool that you can use in combination with nature therapy to reduce feelings of anxiety or low mood. Here are a few basic steps of mindfulness to follow:

  • Take a moment to stop and soak up your surroundings; focus on your breath.
  • Slowly inhale the fresh air before gradually breathing it out through your nose.
  • Repeat this process. Remember to bring the focus back to your breath if your mind begins to wander. 

Fresh, forest air brings benefits to both the body and mind. Trees have been found to release beneficial chemicals known as phytoncides. When breathed in, they can help to boost our immune systems and fight against harmful cells and viruses within our bodies.

Make your next holiday a wellness experience

Planning to get away for a few days or maybe even a few weeks? Immerse yourself in nature therapy on your next holiday by choosing a quiet camping break in the wilderness or even a wellness retreat. 

If you are new to the concept of nature therapy or meditation, a holiday at a holistic outdoor retreat can be a great introduction. You’ll have the opportunity to be guided through calming meditations by trained professionals in a beautiful, natural setting. 

You’ll find forest retreats all over the world, so whether you’re planning a big trip or would prefer to stay closer to home, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from.

Have you tried any form of nature therapy as a way of calming your mind? Let us know your thoughts on natural therapies, such as Shinrin-yoku by leaving a message below, or sharing a DM with us @wearewo_uk

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