Ecotherapy, sometimes called Nature Therapy, is a mental health treatment that focuses on interactions between humans and the natural world. Specifically, Ecotherapy focuses on the Earth as a living system and emphasizes how all living things on Earth are interconnected. The concept is familiar to many indigenous people, and many non-Western cultures have recognized it.
Research supports the notion that directly being in nature or reflecting on nature can:
- Lead to an increase in positive feelings and thoughts
- Reduce stress, decrease anxiety
- Decrease depressive symptoms, decrease anger
- Improve memory, increase creative problem-solving
- Improve emotion regulation
You can find more information about the health benefits of incorporating nature into one’s life in this article.
Although one can practice Ecotherapy through different modalities such as animal-assisted therapy, horticulture therapy, or wilderness therapy, one can also integrate many Ecotherapy techniques into daily life to promote mental and physiological health.
Studies have shown that incorporating nature into ones’ life can have positive impacts.
Here are some suggestions for how you may try to incorporate nature into your and your family’s life:
- Take care of a houseplant and keep it in a place where you and your family will see it often. Tending to a plant and responding to its needs of sunlight, water, etc., can be an excellent metaphor for how we may have to respond to our own needs as well. Allowing kids to help take care of the plant can be a perfect opportunity for confidence building and pride as they see beautiful, green foliage and watch it grow over time!
- Practice mindfulness or meditation with natural sounds like rainfall, ocean waves, or tropical bird sounds. Search for a natural sound that is soothing online, (such as this rainy sound: https://www.rainymood.com/), and set a timer for 10 minutes; close your eyes and focus only on the sounds of nature that you can hear. Imagine in what kind of place those sounds may be happening. Nature can be critical when incorporated into this grounding technique.
- Draw a picture of a beautiful natural environment (beach, woods, mountains, clouds, etc.), and hang it up in a place where you can see it (or find artwork of natural scenes/landscapes). When you’re having a challenging moment or feel stressed, it may be helpful to destress by taking a look at that artwork and spending a few moments reflecting on the natural beauty present there, imagining yourself in that place.
- Take a walk or go for a hike on a trail that takes you through a beautiful nature scene – whether that is through a lush, wooded area with a variety of trees, leads to a mountain view, or a rushing waterfall! Spending time in and with nature can provide a much-needed relief from the hustle and bustle of daily life and is a great way to connect with loved ones as well.
The following resources include ideas of other ways your family can connect and enjoy the outdoors together:
- Great Nature Project – Get your family outside for an adventure!
- Fun Family-Friendly Activities | Maryland
Salwa is a Licensed Graduate Marriage and Family Therapist who joined Jonah Green and Associates in 2021. In the last two years, she provided individual, couple, and family therapy at the Center for Healthy Families at the University of Maryland. Salwa worked with clients on a variety of topics such as depression, anxiety, emotion regulation, transitions, establishing boundaries, exploring identity and sexuality, and improving communication. She has experience working with clients of diverse cultures, religions, race, ethnicities, and sexualities. Salwa has worked with clients of various ages – children, teenagers, young adults, and adults. She enjoys connecting with her clients and helping them build on their strengths to grow and heal... read more