Therapy in nature
The main reason I offer nature therapy sessions is because of personal experience. Over the last few years in particular, I’ve really noticed how much being in nature plays a role in my emotional health. I recognised this whilst I was studying the counselling diploma at the UEA in Norwich. It was a full on year involving studying, a lot of travelling and personal development. It was vital that I really took part in good self care practices. If I feel low, angry, sad, lost, hopeless and I’m able to, I get outside and walk or sit in nature. After a while of walking or sitting I get to the point where I cannot remember why I was feeling the way I was. When I’m in nature I feel more at peace.
Carlton Marshes, Lowestoft
In Japan, spending time in forests is called ‘shinrin-yoku’ which means forest bathing or taking in the forests atmosphere. It doesn’t involve doing anything much more than taking a walk within a forest or woodland area. You can walk slowly, stop and take time to look closely at the trees and wildlife and sit and practice mindfulness.
Growing numbers of studies show why being in nature, especially in woodlands and forests is good for us. Some of which can be found here.
“To be poor and be without trees, is to be the most starved human being in the world.
To be poor and have trees, is to be completely rich in ways that money can never buy.”
What the research shows
Boosts immune system
Plants give off Phytoncides, which have antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities which help fight disease. One study by Dr. Li (2008) took 13 female nurses on a three-day trip into a forest showed that being in the forest produced anti-cancer proteins. The benefits of which lasted more than 7 days after the trip.
“In a 2007 study, men taking two hour walks in the woods over a two day period exhibited a 50% increase in levels of natural killer cells — the body’s disease fighting agents.”
Lowers blood pressure
Both exercising in forests and simply sitting looking at trees reduces blood pressure. Stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline also reduced.
Roger Ulrich, director of the Center For Health Systems And Design at Texas A&M University, found that just being in a green space reduced stress levels and blood pressure within three minutes.
Reduces stress and improves mood
Forest bathing trips significantly decreased the scores for anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue.
In the UK, GPs are referring patients suffering from stress, depression or anxiety to Green Gyms. There they can get involved in conservation projects, instead of being prescribed anti-depressants. Research by Oxford Brookes University shows that exercising in woodland areas have a calming effect that assists recovery more than a gym.
Increases ability to focus
The cognitive portion of our brain gets a break spending time in nature. This increases our ability to focus and have greater patience.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, believes that children with ADHA may actually be suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder.
A study in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, “Could Exposure to Everyday Green Spaces Help Treat ADHD? Evidence from Children’s Play Settings,” looked at more than 400 children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Researchers reported finding a link between the children’s routine play settings and the severity of their symptoms. The children who regularly play in outdoor settings with lots of green (grass and trees, for example) have milder ADHD symptoms than those who play indoors or in built outdoor environments.
Accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
A 1984 study showed having a green view helped with healing, post operation. Patients with a green view from their hospital window had shorter postoperative stays, took fewer painkillers, and had slightly fewer post-surgical complications.
Increases energy level
The cognitive portion of our brain gets a break spending time in nature, increasing our ability to focus and have greater patience.
“When we slow down, stop the busywork, and take in beautiful natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves too.”
Walking and being in woodlands and forests improve mood and reduce stress. The lowering of cortisol, the stress hormone helps us to feel more relaxed and calm. Being in nature helps to slow down our thoughts as we connect to something outside, and greater than ourselves.
Take good care of your own wellness and get out regularly in a natural, green space. One with trees if possible!
Come and have a some nature therapy with me in a natural space.
Information taken from;