When it comes to depression, everyone is different. Because we’re all different, the things that help us are different. Something which transforms one person’s life, might not be help another person at all. Because of this, it helps to have different ideas of things that we can try to improve our mood. Ecotherapy is something that might work really well for us.
What Is Ecotherapy?
Ecotherapy is an umbrella term for a wide variety of different activities. On a basic level, it’s about interacting with nature, and how that can improve our physical and mental health. It can involve lots of different things. This includes, getting muddy planting some veggies, doing some outdoor Tai Chi, or writing a poem reflecting on a walk we had. It’s shown to help reduce depression, anxiety, anger and stress. It can also improve our mood and self-esteem.
Different Types Of Ecotherapy
There are lots of different types of ecotherapy. If we’re not a fan of one activity, there are other things that we can try. Ecotherapy isn’t limited to gardening and conservation work. It can also include things such as using nature to create – art, sound, music, poetry, or something else. Spending time with animals through farming, dog walking, or something completely different. Being active; exercising outdoors, joining a Good Gym, or doing something ‘different’, such as rock climbing. Ecotherapy encompasses anything aimed at improving mental and physical health through being outside.
It Gives Us Space
Being in nature, away from busy cities, chaotic families, and testing workplaces, can allow us to breathe. It gives us some space. It gives us a break from many of the things that can feed into our rising stress levels. It allows us some space to process difficult thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, it can give us space away from those thoughts and feelings. Depression can be relentless. A breather every now and again can help us to regroup and can give us the strength to keep going.
Depression can cause us to feel like we’re ‘not quite there’. We feel disconnected from everyone and everything around us. It can feel like we’re different, and don’t belong in the world that we find ourselves in. Ecotherapy can help to ground us. Feeling the soil on our hands as we plant some veggies. Feeling the presence of the earth through our feet as we run around a field. Noticing buds appearing in the hedgerows. Picking flowers, or tasting blackberries (with permission). It allows us to reconnect with our surroundings and interact with the world in a different way. Reconnecting, and grounding, can be quite a mindful experience. It can lower our levels of stress and anxiety, and help us feel ready to tackle life again.
Getting out and about can fill our lungs with some fresh air, and get our blood flowing. There are lots of benefits to physical activity. It can improve our sleep, improve our mood, improve our fitness, and use up some of our excess stress hormones.
Taking part in ecotherapy, can help to add some structure into our week. When we’re struggling, structure often goes out of the window. Days can feel never-ending and meaningless. Adding ecotherapy to our week can give us something to look forward to, and get out of the house for. We are likely to meet others who we already have something in common with (enjoying nature). This can help to give us some new connections. These connections might help us to meet up with one or two people outside of the ecotherapy time. We could start by getting to the group together – all friendships start somewhere. We might find a new best friend in the form of a cheerful-but-clumsy labrador. We could prefer taking our dog or camera for a walk to being in a group of people. On our walks, we might smile at a stranger or two and receive a couple of smiles in return. All these things can help us to feel less alone.
Getting to an ecotherapy activity in the first place is a huge achievement. It can be a big step because it’s often a step into the unknown. Structured ecotherapy activities have staff to help us with these things. There might be a support worker, family member, or friend, who we could bring with us the first time or two.
Ecotherapy might throw up some challenges that we have to problem-solve. Overcoming these challenges can help our confidence to grow. Different ecotherapy activities can introduce us to new things. We could discover that we’re amazingly talented at one of these things. It could introduce a whole new world to us. Others might spot our talent and begin to ask us for tips, which can help our confidence to flourish. Nurturing something, and seeing it grow (plants, a pet, our fitness level, or something else) can be life-affirming. It can give us visual evidence of our achievements, which can also help our confidence to grow.
Leaving our house and trying new things can be really difficult (sometimes it feels impossible!). But if we do feel up to it, ecotherapy is something we could try. If we do want to try it, we can begin by looking for programmes in our area. We aren’t alone in feeling low and alone. Ecotherapy is something which might help to lift that a little.
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