I’m always amazed by the profound effect being in the forest has on our guests. Almost daily I read guest reviews that blow my mind. Is it the effect of ecotherapy?
“Ecotherapy” – also known as green therapy, nature therapy, and earth-centered therapy – essentially means getting out into nature to heal, mentally or physically.
Countless studies have shown that time in nature is good for us. One study found that a walk in the country reduced depression in 71% of participants, and that as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation. Another reported that “We found that spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits. It reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration.” (perhaps that is why people sleep so well at Eco Retreats!) In Japan, forest bathing is a popular pastime.
Time in nature, or ecotherapy, has loads of benefits for children as well such as increased confidence, creativity and responsibility and reduced stress and fatigue. But incredibly, British children are playing outside for an average of just over four hours a week and 10% of respondents in a recent study had not even been in a natural environment such as a park, forest or beach for at least a year. A term has even been coined for the effects of this alienation from nature: “nature-deficit disorder”.
Sometimes, guests come to Eco Retreats consciously in need of some ecotherapy. Many mention feeling exhausted, and stressed because of their jobs. Some have come for solitude and seclusion after the ending of a relationship or death of a loved one; or after a severe illness. Others just come for a holiday – but still end up feeling the effects of ecotherapy. Just the other day, a guest wrote to me that:
“My time with you was so relaxing, that on the drive home .. I even found myself driving slower than usual, as I had unwound and relaxed so much without even realising it…”
I often reflect how little support our modern culture offers when times are tough. In a world where community has to a large extent broken down and peer pressure to prove we are doing great seems to be increasing all the time, we sometimes feel we don’t know where to turn. In these difficult times, it’s amazing to know that nature is waiting there for us and all we need to do is get out there and allow it to work its magic. It really is that simple.
While various structured ecotherapy programs exist, a walk in the park, sitting by the river, taking a pause to really notice the flowers, or a weekend forest retreat are all great ways to experience ecotherapy for yourself.
Most of us can feel that there are parts of us – physically and emotionally – that have fallen out of balance. In nature, new energy and peace can flow effortlessly to these places.
Here at Eco Retreats, we are so grateful for the part we play in enabling people to venture deep into the forest and experience the power of ecotherapy.
As summer gives way to autumn, we may feel a natural turning inwards in preparation for the colder seasons. It’s the perfect time for some ecotherapy in the forest – we’re open till end October so there’s still time to join us this year!