Ecotherapy is a growing fitness trend that incorporates the benefits of nature for health and wellness. In fact, once you hear about the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku, you’re on the path toward therapy that could change your life.
Shinrin-yoku means “taking in the forest atmosphere” and is simply referred to as “forest bathing” by many practitioners. It’s one of the purest forms of what many now refer to as ecotherapy, which is a therapeutic practice that takes place out in the forest or wilderness.
This is an umbrella term that is used by thousands of programs around the world that aim to provide therapeutic help through the natural environment. The movement is all about leaving modern technology and the stress of daily life behind, heading into the wild to connect with nature. The concept was created in the 1900s from the practice of Shinrin-yoku, which requires you to walk under the canopy of the forest with all senses open to the surrounding atmosphere.
Before you start exploring this concept or consider putting forest bathing into practice, it helps to understand the benefits of ecotherapy. Now that research has been conducted into the practice, we have a better understanding of why so many people believe in the power of being among trees.
Promoting Positive Emotions & Life Satisfaction
This is one of the most prominent benefits. Multiple studies have shown that walking through a natural environment like a forest or looking at trees and other representations of nature while working promotes feelings of relaxation, happiness, and satisfaction with life in general.
One study found that participants who walked through a nature preserve after completing 40 minutes of focused work felt less anger and performed better on a proofreading test than participants who went to other settings to unwind. There are also other studies that have proven the positivity and sense of rejuvenation that enters the mind after a person spends time in nature.
If you’ve ever gone for a hike or a long walk through the park, you may have experienced this firsthand. Imagine how your state of mind could change if you made nature walks a normal part of your daily life. You would likely handle stress much better while making decisions that point you in the direction of a more satisfying lifestyle.
Lower Blood Pressure
A hospital study found that patients reported fewer feelings of depression after looking at pictures of nature or inhaling scents of nature. Blood pressure measurements showed that these patients experienced lower blood pressures after knowingly or unknowingly being exposed to the fresh scents or images of nature.
This shows that the benefits aren’t all in the head. While they can change your perspective on life and relieve the crushing weight of stress and depression, they can also lower your blood pressure and impact your overall health and wellbeing.
Improved Self Esteem
Studies have shown that children growing up in an urban environment experience improved self esteem when sent into the natural world for camp. One particular study showed an improvement in how children viewed themselves after spending time at a nature camp. Many adults going through ecotherapy programs report similar experiences.
Increased Immune Function
A Japanese study investigated the effect of forest bathing on human immune function and found that plants and trees release compounds (phytoncides) that promote healthy biological changes such as reduction of stress hormones and increased immune function.
Time to Reflect
How much time do you spend thoughtfully reflecting on where you are today and where you want to land in the future? If you’re like most people, your average day doesn’t allow much time to thoughtfully reflect on who you are as a person, let alone to properly think through big decisions that could change the course of your life. Perhaps this is why so many people feel pressured into making snap decisions that they will later regret.
This type of therapy gives you the opportunity to free your mind from stress and really reflect on what matters most to your life. Not only does it give you a timeout to think through major decisions, it can help you rethink your entire life and make lifestyle changes that are rewarding in the short and long term. This can have a powerful impact on your life as you learn to listen to yourself with the guidance of nature.
If you’re intrigued by the benefits of ecotherapy listed here, consider learning more about the practice through immersion. You can start by going into state forests and parks in your local area to enjoy a leisurely walk, opening your mind to the sounds, smells, and overall sensation of being in that natural environment. When you’re ready to take it a step further, look for ecotherapy programs in your local area or in a location which you would like to visit.
An ecotherapy program could be the life change that you need right now. It’s a way to reconnect with yourself, make big decisions for your life, or perhaps overcome grief, regret, depression and other negative emotions that are currently holding you back.