WHAT IS ECOTHERAPY?
Ecotherapy isn't a singular treatment, but more of a name given to a range of psychotherapy treatments that aim to improve your mental health through the connection with nature and the natural world as a whole. Please note, this doesn't include sitting and watching the Discovery Channel in your pants!
It is sometimes referred to as 'green therapy', 'horticultural therapy' or 'green exercise', but they all refer to the same thing; a whole range of outdoor activities.
Ecotherapy can work in isolation, but also as part of a wider treatment plan.
HOW DOES ECOTHERAPY WORK?
Ecotherapy works by using the connection we have to the environment to alleviate distress. The idea is that by learning to care for the environment, we can learn to care for ourselves too. If that all sounds a bit 'hippy-dippy' for you, then it may not appeal, but don't knock it til you try it.
Ecotherapy can take place in a urban or rural environment. You don't have to be thrown out into the wilderness Bear Grylls-style to get back to nature. It can be done in a park, an allotment, a city farm, woodland or even in your own back garden.
Whichever space you choose, it will offer a therapeutic setting which can be different from your therapist's office or Doctor's surgery.
You won't have to talk about, or even think about, your problems. The relaxing setting acts as an oasis of calm amongst the hustle and bustle of daily life. By surrounding yourself with nature, it aims to boost your mood and sense of self.
Ecotherapy doesn't have to be run by mental health organisations or departments to work. There are a number of environmental or conservation programmes in most communities that we're sure would benefit from having some more volunteers like you.
Let's not forget, there will be a sense of physical exercise in ecotherapy. The regular exercise that ecotherapy offers, can improve your fitness levels, allow some fresh air into your lungs and use up some of those horrible stress hormones that can build up. If your body feels better, your mind will too.
WHO IS ECOTHERAPY FOR?
Ecotherapy works well for those suffering with mild to moderate depression. Due to the calming nature of the work, it also works well for those with anger issues. It is rarely done alone, so if you're feeling lonely, the connection with other people helps to improve your social life which all combine to help your self-esteem and mood.
For those with conditions like psychosis or ongoing suicidal tendencies, then there may be more specialised programmes available.
It may be worth speaking to those in charge of your care to see if there are any suitable schemes local to you.