There are many methods of coping with depression and anxiety, including traditional therapies, medication and lifestyle choices, but an often overlooked method is the power of nature. Ecotherapy has been long-established as a vital tool in the ongoing efforts against such disorders since it is easy to do, can be done at any time and costs nothing.
Spending more time outdoors in a natural environment has been shown to reduce stress and improve concentration as well as provide healing effects and promote a sense of mindfulness and wellbeing. While just being outside can boost positive emotions, there are some specific activities that can have a significant impact on mental health.
Some of these include:
- Appreciating flowers
- Walking through a park
- Getting a pet
Research suggests that exposure to plants and flowers lowers chronic stress while mood elevation, relaxation and physical health can be boosted by a walk in nature and animals can provide positive mental health by means of playfulness and companionship.
Stop and Smell the Roses
We are all aware of the wide and wonderful range of flowers available and while most of us might only interact with them on a minimal scale, either walking by in the park or in an office setting, for example, there is much more to flowers than vibrant colours and pleasant odours. Recent studies have found that floral interaction or appreciation can have significant effects on our mental health.
The hues and smells of certain flowers can encompass different kinds of holistic therapies in one, including chromotherapy and aromatherapy, both of which have been proven effective for certain mood disorders and anxiety. Chronic stress can be lowered by just being exposed to flowers but since most of us might not have a flower garden, sending them as a gift might be worth the time and effort. You might be thinking of a loved one in another county during lockdown so maybe you could order flowers to Munich, Rome, London or anywhere else thanks to the many excellent online florists available and treat someone to some passive and powerful therapy.
Live the Park Life
Being able to walk outside is one of the greatest joys of life and being surrounded by the sounds, smells and sights of nature is a wonderful experience. For those lucky enough to have their own garden, just sitting outside is a great way to relax but to benefit the most you will need to take a relaxing walk through a park.
While the pandemic continues you may only be able to get to a local park, but try to find one with as many trees, shrubs and flowers as you can and if there is water such as a lake, riverside or canal then that would be a great bonus. Studies by Mind.org have concluded that walking in nature can help with confidence and mindfulness as well as having the obvious advantages that come with physical activity such as walking or jogging.
A Friend for Life
Using animals for therapy is a growing trend that many people are embracing as a genuine coping method, such as the case with so-called “therapy pets” and the growing use of animals as coping mechanisms for inmates at prisons which has been shown to reduce violent behaviour. Whatever they are used for, attachment to animals, especially common dogs and cats is a privilege with benefits that cannot be denied.
A dog or a cat is essentially a friend for life and bonding with these animals is a well-known cure for loneliness and depression, given the attachments that can form between pet and owner. The responsibilities that come with owning a pet also means that you will be getting more physical exercise than usual and probably going to natural spaces, which have been shown to affect mental health in a positive way, where you are also likely to interact with other pet owners and form better relationships within your community.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.