A belief that contact with nature ameliorates stress and benefits humans can be found in the earliest documented histories of China, Greece and Persia.
~ Townsend and Weerasuriya, 2010
Are you attracted to green spaces? Perhaps you live with a lot of green around you. I have been walking to work through the fringe of the CBD choosing my path through a public park. It is remarkably refreshing to walk through a large green space, under towering trees, along paths bordered by variegated foliage. The alternative is to be on a tram packed in with other commuters like sardines. No choice really!
Research shows that the health effects of contact with nature is beneficial for emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. Psychological benefits include improved mood, lower levels of anxiety, lower stress levels, lower levels of depression and increased physical activity. Some suggest there is a ‘nature deficit disorder’ resulting from negative, behavioural consequences of the divorce of humans from their natural habitat.
Being “in the green” has many benefits. These include dramatic mood elevation following time spent outside. Spending time in nature can decrease the presence of stress hormones in blood, respiration rate, and brain activity.
Many eco-psychologists suggest alienation from the natural world can result in personal, relational and social problems, including psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, and other psychosomatic symptoms. And on the flip side, regular contact with the natural world can contribute to self-esteem, social connections, health and general happiness.
“Eco-psychologists are people who study the relationships between human beings and the natural world”
~ Kets de Vries, 2016
So what can you do, as an urban dweller where there is not so much green? A few suggestions are: gardening, contact with animals, nature walks, or nature brought indoors. It’s not hard, but requires a little thought and organisation.
You could also try “eco-therapy” or “nature therapy” which is a combination of ideas between eco-psychology and psychotherapy. “It refers to the kind of mental health work that puts our connection with the earth at the core of our psychological activities” (Kets de Vries, 2016). This approach can help people cope with the stresses and strains of daily life.
So, when you are feeling blue – you need to go back to the green. Reconnect with nature and your human connection with the natural world.
Alternatively, move in the green more often and stay away from the blues. Put a little green in your everyday. Do it this weekend, and give yourself a boost for the week ahead.
Do you have your own “eco-therapy” techniques to share?
- Kets de Vries, Manfred. 2016. Eco-therapy: The Walking and Talking Cure. INSEAD Knowledge Centre blog. 14 June 2016.
Townsend, Mardie and Weerasuriya, Rona. 2010. Beyond Blue to Green: The Health Benefits of Contact with Nature in a Park Context – Literature Review. Beyond Blue Research Project