What is Nature Therapy?

Last year, we published a blog post all about the benefits of getting outside on your mental health. We knew then that being in nature is an important part of mental illness recovery, and now evidence supporting that is mounting even further. Here, we’ll explore what nature therapy is and how it relates to mental health. 
man in nature

Nature therapy is the act of being in nature alongside a professionally trained in this form of therapy. Also called ecotherapy, nature therapy can include many different outdoor activities and isn’t limited to walks or exercise. 

Some of the many options for nature therapy include:

  • Community gardening
  • Stargazing
  • Therapeutic farming
  • Wilderness/adventure therapy
  • Forest bathing
  • Working with animals
  • Outdoor meditation, yoga, and exercise 

Many of these activities will be offered at Eli’s Place as part of our treatment programs for young adults living with serious mental illness. 

The Science Behind Nature Therapy

Spending time in nature is proven to improve the well-being of everyone, especially those living with mental illness. 

In one study, participants who took a 90-minute walk through a nature trail had “lower levels of rumination” than their counterparts that took a more urban walking path. 

According to this report which compiled data from multiple studies, spending time in nature increases psychological well-being. It also noted that nature therapy can improve sleep quality and reduce stress. This is critical information when it comes to mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorders, and ADHD which are highly affected by sleep and stress. 

This study discusses the proven benefits of ecotherapy on individuals who experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). And this study demonstrates the benefits of ecotherapy on individuals living with PTSD

Spending time outdoors offers more opportunities for socialization and connection, increased mindfulness, and even increased resilience. 

Canada’s First Nature Prescription Plan

The government of Canada supports an initiative from BC Parks Foundation called PaRx, A Prescription for Nature. This initiative gives health professionals the information, tools, and resources to prescribe time spent outdoors to their patients experiencing symptoms of mental illness. 

Prescribers are encouraged to prescribe as much as two hours and 20 minutes per week per patient and to follow up on the prescription’s effects. 

Making the Most of Your Outdoor Time

You don’t need a prescription to get outside. Try experimenting with different outdoor activities and notice how they impact your mood. 

Although this study recommends spending 120 minutes per week outdoors, any amount of time is better than none.

You also don’t need to find a remote setting to experience the outdoors. Spending time in nature wherever you live can result in increased well-being. Evidence shows that green spaces (parks, fields, forests, etc.) are as effective as blue spaces. Blue spaces refer to aquatic settings like the coast, beaches, lakes, rivers, etc. 

Interested in Helping Those Living with Mental Illness Receive Nature Therapy?

Nature therapy will be one of the many services provided to young adults living with serious mental illness who receive treatment at Eli’s Place. We believe in the healing power of being outdoors. To help us open our doors, click here.

Eli’s Place will be a rural, residential treatment program for young adults with serious mental illness. To learn more about our mission and our proven-effective model click here.

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This March, CanadaHelps will make an additional one-time donation of $20 for every new monthly gift of $20 or more in support of Eli’s Place!*