What is Ecotherapy?
Ecotherapy is a type of therapy to support your mental health that involves nature and the outdoors. There are professionally-run courses and workshops that you can attend but you can also easily add some ecotherapy to your self-care routine yourself. While you might want to give Ecotherapy a try if you are currently suffering from depression or other mental health issues, it can also be really useful in helping to prevent recurrent bouts of mental ill-health. Ecotherapy can easily be used in conjunction with other therapies or medicines and you don’t have to live in the countryside to take advantage of the benefits. Getting outside and connecting with nature has been shown to greatly improve our wellbeing, so here are 10 ideas for you to try:
1) Grow Something:
Even if you don’t have a garden you can try growing something on a windowsill, sign up for a local allotment or ask a neighbour if they would like some help with their garden. If you’re a newbie gardener you could start with a kit (even one aimed at kids!) as usually they come with a container, the soil, seeds and clear instructions, if you pick a food-plant then you also get the bonus of a tasty reward. If you do have a garden and it is is overwhelmingly neglected you could try enticing your friends round and make a work party to tackle it! The act of nurturing something to life can be really rewarding although personally I really enjoy the tidying and weeding part of gardening (my garden is quite ‘wild’!) as I find it very satisfying to see the difference and how much better it looks after I’ve spent an hour attacking it! Although don’t get me started about bindweed. That makes me sweary. If you’re worried about killing plants you could start with some succulents or a cute terrarium! (Sometimes I post garden-related photos over on my Instagram as it’s my happy place!)
There are a variety of places you can volunteer your services and get outside more. Check your area for community gardens, park volunteers (sometimes called ‘friends of ‘x’ park’), farm parks, countryside rangers or try the local scout group as they often need volunteers – our local scout hut has a garden that the kids help to maintain as well as the opportunity to go on camps to do other outdoorsy things. (Don’t ask me, camping is not my thing!) Volunteering at groups such as these can build your confidence as you learn new skills or even teach your skills to the next generation and is great for building relationships and socialising.
3) Pick up Litter:
Head to your local park or beach and help to keep it clean. Not only will you benefit from the walk and the fresh air but you can feel like you’ve made a positive difference to your environment.
Apparently exercising outside boosts mental wellbeing more than if you just did the same exercise inside! Going for a run or even a walk can help to use up excess cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body, helping you feel happier and more relaxed. Exercising regularly also increases your energy levels as well as your general fitness level. Win-win! Try a group activity, the council-run ranger service near me regularly organises runs and walks in the countryside where you could make friends too. You could also take up an outdoor hobby activity such as kayaking, rock climbing or mountain biking and there are usually local group meets or clubs where you can learn skills and make friends.
5) Create habitats for wildlife:
If you have a garden there are many things you can do to give nature a helping hand. You could put up a bee house for solitary bees, make a bee watering station, make hedgehog houses, bird houses, bat houses or even make a pond! (a lot more effort but think of the adorable frogs! squee!) You could also get a bird feeder or table and plant bee friendly flowers (many shops sell ‘bee friendly mixes’ these days, if you’re unsure of what flowers to plant).
6) Practice Mindfulness:
Take a walk and really notice everything, the smells, the sounds, the breeze, be present in the moment and not with your worries. You can do this even in an urban area, it doesn’t have to be the woods. If possible invest in a hammock, they are the perfect place to relax and absorb nature. Pay attention to the seasons and embrace the change, they help us to see that nothing ever stays the same and each season has something to be celebrated. My favourite season is Autumn, I love the anticipation of the festive season (and my birthday!) and suddenly all the baked goods involve cinnamon and I get to wear snuggly jumpers and splash in puddles! It’s the best! I’m currently trying to be thankful for Summer, despite the heat – at least the washing drys quickly!
7) Make natural art:
Collect natural materials to create art or craft items. Pinterest is full of ideas of things to make and this is also especially fun with kids. If you take a trip to the beach collect shells to remind you of your holiday, collect sticks and leaves from the woods and make collages, forage things to bake with (only forage food that you 100 % KNOW is safe to eat!)
8) Meet your friends for a picnic:
If the weather is good, instead of meeting in the pub or for a coffee, go for a picnic or bbq instead! If meeting with friends for a kids playdate, you could meet up at a park or playground instead of soft play.
9) Try to get more nature in to your routine:
If you’re finding it hard to make time specifically for nature-related activities you could try to squeeze it in to your normal routine instead. Get off the bus a stop earlier, eat your lunch in the park, reply to emails in the garden.
10) Go camping:
I have tried to love camping, I really have, but it is not for me! However, it may be for you… taking some time to be ‘off-grid’ and immersed in nature for a few days can really help to replenish your self-care reserves if that is what you need. If your family are not keen or you don’t want to go camping by yourself there may be local wilderness programmes you can attend with an ecotherapy angle, or related to bushcraft and learning new skills.
How do you manage to weave a bit more nature in to your life? Let me know in the comments! ❤
Struggling right now? Maybe try reading my basic self care post or remembering that Nobody Ever Has All Their Shit Together, And That Is Okay
Also if you’re heading in to the great outdoors with kids, you might want to check out Homeopathy For The Summer Holidays