The Journal of Holistic Healthcare recently reported that UK mental health charity Mind is calling for ecotherapy to be recognised as a clinically-valid treatment for mental health problems, including anxiety, stress, low self-esteem and depression.
Ecotherapy, something I often prescribe to patients alongside homeopathic remedies, involves getting outdoors and getting as active as you can, but in a green or nature environment. Whether you choose regular walks in a park, kite-flying or gardening, green exercise is proven to have huge benefits for mental/emotional health.
This type of exercise is frequently prescribed in the Dutch and Norwegian orthodox healthcare system, but the UK lags behind in recognising the profound and tangible benefits of ecotherapy.
Mind’s report, Ecotherapy: the green agenda for mental health, reports the findings of the UK’s first ever study looking at how green exercise specifically affects people with mental health problems. A walk in a country park was compared with a walk in an indoor shopping centre, and the results showed that:
71% of participants reported decreased levels of depression after the green walk
22% felt their depression increased after walking through an indoor shopping centre, and only 45% experienced a decrease in depression
71% said they felt less tense after the green walk
50% said their feelings of tension had increased after the shopping centre walk
90% had increased self-esteem after the country walk
44% said their self-esteem decreased after window-shopping in the shopping centre.
William Bloom’s system of core energy management (applied psychoneuroimmunology) recognises the healing value of nature, and this idea certainly isn’t new.
In the days when I was paralysed and stuck upstairs in my bed week after week, a kindly friend visited me, bringing window boxes, soil and plants, and she sat on my bedroom floor, with old newspapers spread out beneath her, planting the window boxes up for me, so that I’d have something beautiful and green to gaze on in during my bleakest days. I’ve never forgotten her kindness and have no doubt that her efforts helped me to pull through.
It’s therefore great to see incontrovertible proof that walks in the countryside, or even contact with greenery and nature, can support healing, and it’s a timely reminder to those of us in urban environments to seek out green spaces to enjoy. So the next time you feel mental distress, by all means call your homeopath for a remedy but remember to get out into nature, too!