Question for you… How do you feel after a long day of staring at your computer, answering phone calls, texts, and emails, or weaving in and out of traffic that’s laden with honking horns? Frazzled? Tense/stiff? Overwhelmed? Disconnected? Exhausted? Yep. We are not surprised.
How about this…
Remember how you’d feel as a kid after a long day of playing tag, hide and seek, climbing trees, or catching fireflies? Calm, relaxed, and content? We all know that feeling, even if it seems so far away in your distant memory. What if we told you that you could feel that way now?
Spoiler alert: YOU CAN.
Who is this ecotherapy for? Everyone.
Let’s dive deeper into the WHY you should spend more time outside…
- Calming and relaxing effects - Being outside is a true mindfulness practice because it’s so much easier to stay in the present moment. Whether you are walking trails while listening to the birds, playing in the sand with your kids, gardening, or eating dinner on the back porch, the act of just being outside helps us to become absorbed in our environment. This is really good for your brain to take a break from the past, present, or future stresses that you can get caught dwelling on throughout the day.
Healthy distractions from unpleasant thoughts and pain can help to reduce cortisol, alleviating symptoms like anxiety, depression, PTSD, racing thoughts, muscle tension, and fast heartbeat. The sounds of birds, water, and rain, as well as looking at colorful scenery filled with various greens and all of the colors of the rainbow can positively impact your nervous system.
- Reduces symptoms of depression - There is proof that adults and children who regularly spend time outside throughout the week experience elevated moods and a better ability to handle change and the stresses of life. A study in the journal “Mind” reported that 95 percent of participants interviewed after spending time outside noticed mental changes from depressed and anxious to a calmer and more balanced state. After time outside, people are often more motivated and take on a higher sense of self-worth.
- Increase your energy and prevent burnout - When you are staring at screens all day indoors, while also trying to multitask, it can be extremely draining and exhausting for your mind and body. Even if you take a few minutes to go outside, feel the sun on your skin, or simply sit in nature and listen to the sounds, you can feel the benefits of a natural energy boost.
If you are partaking in outdoor exercise like walking/running, gardening, biking, swimming, riding horses, farming, yoga, or whatever else you love to do, these activities can increase energy and motivation, as well as positively impact sleep and immune function, which can benefit your energy levels as well.
- Improved connection to others - Even when I was in medical school in Portland, amongst the bright lights, honking horns, asphalt, and traffic jams - all of the things that Tanda’s hate, I was able to find tranquility and connection when I walked the quiet trails outside of the city. When people walked by and we exchanged a hello or a headnod, there was an instant sense of belonging and camaraderie even when I didn’t know them. Why? Because we were all out there seeking the same thing… connection to the earth and the peace that it gives. And I think everyone that consciously spends time outside in nature has that collective understanding.
The point is, you can find connections with others through nature no matter where you live. You can find it in the big cities or you can find it when completely immersed on a 40 acre farm in the middle of nowhere, doing chores and eating dinner with loved ones daily, like I am today. Mother Earth wants to be found by all. And she knows how important it is for us to find her together.
- Brings you back to your childhood - When we connect to our playful inner child and the joys that we experienced before the major stresses of life hit us, it’s extremely therapeutic and healing for all that we have endured over the years. Take time to think back to the outdoor activities that brought you joy, calm, excitement, and feelings of safety and security as a child… What were they? And then, implement them.
I am sure this all sounds great, but I also know it could also sound a little daunting. Getting back to the basics of life and reconnecting to earth in ways that feel so unfamiliar at this point may seem hard. Well, that’s why I am here. I have some really great options for ecotherapy so that you can get started as soon as possible and rekindle that long-lost love affair you had with mother nature years ago.
How to connect with the earth…
- Hike some trails
- Do yoga in the yard
- Eat dinner on the back porch
- Walk at a local park or in your neighborhood
- Spend time with your animals
- Visit a farm… or start a farm
- Create a garden
- Rake leaves… and don’t forget to jump in them
- Spend time at the beach…build a sandcastle
- Tie-dye t-shirts in the yard
- Go camping
- Kayak or canoe the river
- Have a bonfire and a cookout
- Workout outside instead of inside the gym
- Shop at the outdoor farmers market
- Read on the porch
- Try mountain or rock climbing
- Ride a horse
- Plant flowers
- Climb sturdy trees
- Play a game of kickball or tag with family or the neighbors
- Go swimming
- Play outdoor sports
- If it’s cold, build a snowman, go sledding, and make a snow angel
- Get chickens…you can have them anywhere these days
- Catch fireflies in a mason jar…and then let them go
The list is endless. Even just starting with a little time outside will show you how much good it does for your soul. We want to know your favorite things to do outside, so report back. Enjoy this earth that we get to live on!