Nature therapy, sometimes referred to as ecotherapy, describes a broad group of techniques or treatments with the intention of improving an individual's mental or physical health, specifically with an individual's presence within nature or outdoor surroundings. It involves simply walking — quietly, slowly and deliberately — in a forest, and taking in the sounds, scents, colours, forms and general vibe of nature. Although spending time in nature is good for us, but we may not realize just how good it can be for our health. Forests not only play a major role in cleaning our air and water, but also provide beneficial changes to the minds and bodies of those who spend time among the trees.
One example of a nature therapy is forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, a practice that combines a range of exercises and tasks in an outdoor environment. Garden therapy, horticultural therapy, Kneipp therapy or even ocean therapy may also be viewed as forms of nature therapy. Trees have a natural stress relief scent. Just a whiff confers amazing health benefits.
Pine and other evergreen trees are loaded with compounds that have been proven to reduce stress in the human body. The chemicals are called phytonsides and can really help you chill out by reducing anxiety and boosting immune defences.
Spending time in the forest can give the cognitive portion of our brain a break. In the forest, we don’t have to focus on everyday things that mentally drain us. Instead, we can appreciate the beauty of the forest and observe the plants and animals that thrive in the environment.
A walk in the woods gazing at trees, flowers and wildlife, can leave you feeling restored and rejuvenated. The person spends time in nature, resulting in improvements in physiological relaxation and the immune function recovery response. Nature directly increases the parasympathetic nervous system and heightens awareness, causing relaxation. Getting the most obvious benefit out of the way, walking or evening jogging in the woods is a stress-free way of exercising.
Spending time in nature can improve immune, cardiovascular, and respiratory functioning. Nature therapy can provide emotional healing, decrease blood pressure, improve a person’s general sleep-wake cycle, improve relationship skills, reduces stress, and reduce aggression. Nearly a dozen such studies have been conducted in 24 forests, and each reported that subjects experienced lowered levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and lower levels of blood pressure and pulse rates.
Plants emit a substance called Phytocides. The purpose of this substance is to help plants protect themselves from bugs and diseases, but studies have found that it can also benefit us. When we breathe in the Phytocides, our bodies respond by increasing the activity of white blood cells known as NK or natural killer cells.