Do you remember the scene in the Shawshank Redemption where Andy played by Tim Robbins is visualising the calming waters of the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful golden beach in Zihuatanejo in Mexico even though at the time he was trapped behind four walls in Shawshank Prison with no means of escape, or so we thought.
For that fleeting moment he felt free, de-stressed, calm and content – We can all access this feeling on a daily basis by embracing what Psychologists call Eco Therapy
Eco Therapy creates improved physical and spiritual wellbeing through outdoor activity”– As stated by the charity Mind (2015)
What are the Benefits of Eco Therapy?
The benefits of Eco Therapy are often related to our senses connecting us to the environment around us, from the shapes in nature we see to the scents the trees give off and the fascination that nature can stimulate which helps our minds rest.
During the COVID Pandemic and subsequent lockdowns one of the biggest causes of poor mental health was the fact that we were all trapped inside our homes only really allowed out for a tiny part of the day. We were denied the gift of nature and all its benefits.
During the Pandemic 45% of people stated that by being in green spaces such as a garden had been vital for their mental health (Mental Health Foundation). As we march into the Autumn months the days will gradually get shorter and the nights longer so getting into the outdoors to enjoy those precious moments of daylight and, hopefully, Indian Summer sunshine could not be more needed.
Another thing that can affect people at this time of year is SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD is a particular type of depression that people experience during certain seasons of the year most likely Autumn and Winter when the days are shorter and sunshine can be scarce. Think how you feel when you get up the dark and then head home from work in the dark, it can make you feel lethargic and have a dramatic impact on your mood. But even in the Autumn and Winter months you can harness the benefits of the great outdoors, sometimes from the comfort of your own living room.
What we can do to Embrace Eco Therapy:
We may not have access to beautiful beaches on the Pacific Ocean like Andy Dufrene but here is what you can do:
- Step outside of your current environment. Take ten slow breaths and let your mind adjust to the new environment. Be mindful of your breathing and take time to just enjoy the moment.
- Stimulate your senses – Experience the smells and sounds of the outside world. Enjoy the sights and colours of the autumn leaves on the trees and take in the natural cycle of nature.
- Struggle to get outdoors or weather bad? – Download a picture of the place you find the most beautiful, a beach, the mountains. Look at the picture for ten seconds, close your eyes and see yourself in that picture – How do you feel?
- Spend time in your garden if you have one – Use your own garden to remind yourself that you are very much part of the natural world around you. Even staring out of your window to the garden can help to de stress you.
- Find nature in the city – Green spaces can be a little difficult to find in big cities. Seek out natural spaces such as parks or canals. Taking advantage of urban green spaces is also positive for your mood and life satisfaction (mentalhealth.org.uk)