Ecotherapy: Go Outside, You'll Feel Better
A growing field of medicine called “ecotherapy” encourages patients to spend more time outdoors and in nature to help them cope with mental disorders like anxiety, depression, and ADHD, and chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and insomnia. Proponents of ecotherapy – doctors and patients alike – say it can help reduce the need for medication.
Ecotherapy combines nature walks with therapy sessions and simple exercises. While outside, patients focus on the visuals of trees and leaves and the sounds of chirping birds and rivers or streams. It is a variation of forest therapy or Shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”) – a technique developed in Japan in the 1980s that has become the basis of healing and preventive health care in Japanese medicine.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Essex in England, 9 out of 10 people with depression reported feeling "higher self-esteem after a walk through a park," and almost three-quarters reported feeling less depressed afterwards. Researchers also discovered that people recovered faster from illnesses after spending time outside, which they attributed to an “immunizing” effect that helped protect them from stress.