We need to unplug in order to recharge.
We’ve all been drained from staring at a screen or scrolling through social media. In these frustrating moments, it’s a good idea to ditchphone and head for the door. Whenstep outside, notice the subtle translucence of the leaves on a tree. take in the pastel shades that paint the sky as the sun begins to set. A warm breeze gently will sweep by, remindingto breathe.
“Nature nourishes our mind and body. It heals and sustains our collective well-being.”
Nature nourishes our mind and body. It heals and sustains our collective well-being. The further we drift away from it, the more disconnected we feel from ourselves and even from one another as humans. Living in a modern, technology-driven way has led us to search for ways to regain control—but we usually only find temporary fixes.
Nature-based therapy, also known as ecotherapy, is a simple concept that can be difficult to put into practice because of how much time our modern culture keeps us indoors and glued to a screen. Yet, more research and medical experts support the idea that time spent outside is a long-term remedy to a myriad of modern day illnesses.
Whetherlive in an urban area or have green and blue spaces around, there are infinite ways to weave nature-based therapy intoeveryday life. Here, we’ve outlined some of the easiest and most impactful ways to live a more grounded and connected life.
SootheSenses with Natural Sounds
What isdaily soundscape? Is it the roar of an airplane, honking horns, subway cars grating against the rails, or phones ringing? Chances are, ifhear these noises often and at a loud volume,soundscape is triggeringstress response system.
In his book, Blue Mind, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols says, “Our sound processing systems, built for millions of years to be sensitive to the smallest noises in the environment, are overwhelmed, exhausted, and sick. People who live in places with continuously high levels of traffic noise have a greater risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and suppressed immune systems.” He goes on to say prolonged exposure to loud noise causes the release of stress hormones, while pleasant sounds at comfortable levels—like that of water inherently pleasant to our ears—have been shown to improve mood and induce relaxation.
Try to become aware of the noises that make updaily soundscape. Then, take a moment to notice how it makesfeel. Whencan, immerse in a nourishing and quiet soundscape full of natural sounds like that of birds, wind, and water, to help soothenervous system. Also, try to spend time in quiet outdoor spaces as often ascan. Ifcan’t regularly make it to those spaces, createown soothing soundscape with a playlist of ocean sounds or use acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton’s famous recordings of the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park.
Establish Natural Sleep Cycles
circadian timing system that regulates sleep-wake cycles and naturally correlates with the rising and setting of the sun. In his book, Sleep Smarter, Shawn Stevenson explains that being in sync with that system, also known as a rhythm (or the circadian rhythm), allowsto tap into the natural restoration that occurs during sleep. It keeps cognitive and physiological functions dialed during the day.
“Whether we understand it or not, we are heavily connected to nature. We can hide out from it but our [human bodies] are always looking for ways to find [their] rhythm.”
— Shawn Stevenson
Stevenson credits this to serotonin, a hormonebody naturally produces as a result of soaking up the sunlight during the day. “Serotonin is commonly known to bring about feelings of happiness and well-being,” Stevenson says. “It’s crucial to regulatingbody’s internal clock […] and [for transforming] into melatonin.” A direct and well-timed response to the day’s jolt of happy hormones is the sleep hormone, melatonin, whichbody produces as the sun goes down.
Late-night Netflix binges, screen time, and unnatural light sources confuse our systems and effectively mess up our natural circadian rhythm. It leavesfeeling constantly groggy, moody, and stressed out because of sleep deprivation. To remedy this, try syncingsleep cycles to the earth’s. Stevenson recommends going to bed by 10 pm for a restful night, and getting sun exposure (even on cloudy days!) early and frequently throughout the day to keepbody on track.
“Whether we understand it or not, we are heavily connected to nature,” says Stevenson. “We can hide out from it but our [human bodies] are always looking for ways to find [their] rhythm.”
Blue Spaces and Water as Therapy
It may not be surprising to find out that being on, in, or around water is good therapy. After all, our bodies are mostly made of water—it sustains us and all life on this planet. It seems intuitive that it would also be a healing and therapeutic force. A water-lover himself, Dr. Nichols shares the research on its benefits in his book, Blue Mind.
He explains that even neuroscientists understand how intrinsically connected we are to the water, and that something as simple as a walk on the beach or the sound of moving water signals to our body and minds that we are safe. It makes us happier. Nichols recommends finding ways to weave water intoeveryday life. A bike ride to work along the river or a lunch break near a pond will boost happiness. Better yet, find a water activitylove, like kayaking, swimming, or even beach clean ups, that will encourageto spend more time outside and by nature’s life source.
More ways to use Nature-Based Therapy ineveryday life
Volunteer Outdoors – There’s so much research that shows how good we feel when we spend time being altruistic and doing outdoor activities with others. Give back to the environment and by doing a monthly beach or park clean up, or volunteer with an organization to help maintainfavorite hiking trails. Whatever it is, make it a habit.
Make Outdoor Time Meaningful – The art , or ‘forest bathing,’ is well-known for its therapeutic effects. Findfavorite outdoor spot and visit it often, taking care to mindfully soak it up with all five senses. Leavephone at home.
Have Fun Outside with Friends – Group activities can be a fun and social way to get some fresh air. Go on a group hike, picnic, or outdoor yoga class. Whatever it is, choosing to spendtime outside with others will helpcontinue to stay connected to the natural world.