Ecotherapy / Nature Therapy Byron Bay
A growing body of research indicates that ecotherapy, or the practice of integrating time in nature into healing treatments, can reduce people’s stress levels and make them healthier. In a 2002 study by psychologist Terry Hartig, subjects were asked to complete a 40-minute cognitive task designed to induce mental fatigue.
After the task, researchers randomly assigned participants 40 minutes to spend in one of three conditions: walking in a nature preserve, walking in an urban area, or sitting quietly while reading magazines and listening to music. A study conducted in 2012 found that participants who had walked in a nature preserve reported feeling less anger and more positive emotions than those who engaged in the other activities.
Mind, a mental health charity organization, found that a nature walk reduced symptoms of depression in 71% of participants, compared to only 45% of those who took a walk through a shopping center.
Research has shown that the beneficial effects of nature extend beyond what people visually see. For instance, in one study, participants recovered more quickly from psychological stress when they were exposed to nature sounds (from a fountain and tweeting birds) than when they were exposed to road traffic noise. Also, food and fruit odors inhaled by hospital patients resulted in reduced self-reports of depressive mood.
Although direct contact with nature has many benefits, individuals can benefit from viewing or otherwise using natural objects even if they do not spend time in green environments. Several studies have found that the presence of a window overlooking a green space, or even simply seeing photographs of natural objects, can improve people’s sense of well-being and mood.
For example, in a study conducted by Roger Ulrich, who is recognised as a leader in the field of environmental psychology, heart surgery patients in intensive care units were able to reduce anxiety and need for pain medication, some patients are prescribed nature photographs to view while they undergo medical procedures. Another researcher also found that office workers who had a view of nature from a window reported higher job and life satisfaction than those who did not have a view of nature.
In addition to the studies mentioned above, other research demonstrates the positive effects of nature on both physical and mental health. For instance, children who live in buildings with a nearby green space may have a greater capacity for paying attention, delaying gratification, and inhibiting impulses than children who live in buildings surrounded by concrete.
Research has found that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) display fewer symptoms of the disorder after spending time in a green environment than when they spend time indoors or in non-green outdoor environments. Flowers and plants added to a workplace positively affect creativity, productivity, and flexible problem solving, while the presence of animals may reduce aggression and agitation among children and those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Nature Therapy and Counselling in Byron Bay?
Ecotherapy is an umbrella term for nature-based therapies used for healing. Some ecotherapy interventions involve therapy with a professional therapist and others can be carried out individually.
Some types of ecotherapy interventions are done in groups, while others require a one-on-one setting. Additionally, some ecotherapy sessions take place indoors, but those taking place outdoors are often preferred whenever possible.
Some of the most common ecotherapy activities are outlined below:
- Nature meditation: This meditation is sometimes done as group therapy. Group members may identify something in nature that attracts them and then spend a few minutes contemplating how this aspect of nature relates to them and what they can learn from it. For instance, a patient suffering from feelings of worthlessness might see his or her self-respect increase after meditating on how older trees in a forest provide shelter for birds and shade for younger plants. Activities usually end with group members discussing what they have discussed.
- Horticultural therapy: The use of plants and garden-related activities has been shown to promote well-being. Activities may include digging soil, planting seedlings, weeding garden beds, and trimming leaves. This type of intervention may be recommended in cases of stress, burnout, and substance abuse as well as among the elderly. Programs such as Thresholds, a Chicago-based mental health agency, have also used horticultural therapy alongside other treatments to aid military veterans experiencing posttraumatic stress.
- Animal-assisted therapy: Animal-assisted therapy involves the use of animals as a part of a treatment program. Studies have demonstrated that petting or playing with a dog, for example, can reduce aggression and agitation in some populations.
- Physical exercise in a natural environment: Park-based activities include walking, jogging, cycling, and doing yoga. These types of activities foster increased awareness of the natural world, and they may help reduce stress and anxiety, depression, and anger.
- Involvement in conservation activities: Restoring or conserving the natural environment can assist in creating a sense of purpose and hopefulness. Working in groups to do so can also help foster a sense of belonging and connectedness while improving mood.