You’re feeling low, so you go for a walk in the park.
Thirty minutes later, you’re feeling strangely better.
Or maybe it’s not so strange. Your ancestors knew the benefits of time spent in nature.
When the Industrial Revolution drove families out of the country into urban settings, where factory smoke and the rattle of machinery wore down their health, doctors began to prescribe a trip to the sanitarium.
Sanitariums weren’t place you went to clean yourself up. They were health resorts, often situated in the mountains where the clear vistas and fresh breezes restored strength and health.
But then modern medicine decided to have a crack at depression and anxiety.
Why go to the mountains when you could just pop a pill?
Today, you don’t see full-page ads for forests and mountains. But you do see full-page ads for the latest anti-anxiety medication.
Ecotherapy aims to change all that.
The Science of Ecotherapy
Ecotherapy is the latest in a wave of alternative therapies that aims to heal the mind, body and spirit.
By prescribing time in nature, ecotherapists help clients feel better.
But surely you don’t need a therapist to tell you that.
Spend a day at the beach, and your problems recede. Take a hike with the family, and you all feel more bonded.
What’s new about ecotherapy is the science behind it.
Did you know that listening to birdsong creates the perfect environment for studying? 
Did you know that soil bacteria can make you feel happier, similar to how antidepressants enhance serotonin activity in the brain? 
Nature affects the brain and body in some pretty surprising ways.
For example, spending time in forests enhances natural killer cell activity for up to 7 days. Although trees won’t be replacing chemotherapy any time soon, it’s reassuring to know that you can enjoy cancer-fighting benefits by using essential oils made from trees. 
Walking in a forest lowers your blood pressure, pulse, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making it perfect for destressing. (The same relaxation benefits don’t apply to walking in an urban environment.) 
The Japanese are ahead of the game when it comes to understanding the relationship between the natural environment and human health.
Back in the 1980s, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries coined the term Shinrin–yoku, or “forest bathing,” to encourage people to get out in nature.
They knew spending time in nature was beneficial but didn’t have enough research to prove it.
So, just over a decade ago, they established an Association of Therapeutic Effects of Forests, as well as a Japanese Society of Forest Medicine, to study the relationship between forests and health.
The research is coming in, and it’s supporting the notion of forests as medicine.
In Britain, “woodland walking” is treating chronic health conditions.
Green neighborhoods improve longevity, while living close to green spaces reduces stress and BMI. Being outdoors helps children suffering from ADHD.
Getting out in nature has so many health benefits that it won’t be long before Western medicine embraces it, according to Dr. Daphne Miller:
Perhaps sometime in the not-too-distant future, nature exposure will become a critical piece of data collected at the start of every medical encounter. In other words, it will join blood pressure, temperature, and pulse as the newest ‘vital sign.’”
Bringing Nature Indoors
But what if you can’t get out into nature?
What if you really are stuck indoors?
You can get some of the health benefits from nature by growing your own “garden in a pot” on a balcony or sunny window. Get some houseplants, like spider plants or African violets. Listen to a track of soothing nature sounds. Put scenes of natural beauty as your screensaver.
Consider all those options, then ask yourself…
Is getting out into nature once a week really too hard?
NatureRX aims to inspire people to rethink their aversion to a walk in the woods.
Their aim is to market nature in a whole new way. By making it fun, silly, and a whole lot more enjoyable.
So get some nature into your life.
Start small. You don’t have to spend a weekend camping. A stroll around your local park will do just fine.
And if you’ve got a patch of dirt, plant something. Ask the garden center what’s impossible to kill. Get a kid to help you.
That dirt just might make you happier than Prozac. Results vary. 😉
Let us know what you think!