EcoTherapy: Nature’s Answer to Urban Stress

    How many hours have you spent sitting stuck in traffic commuting, transporting the kids to school, shopping and rushing to other appointments only to arrive home frazzled and stressed.

    Take a break naturally and see for yourself the immediate results of what experts are now calling EcoTherapy. It’s not really anything new. Our ancient ancestors lived in the forest without cars, pollution, cell phones or the internet. Our parents might have innocently taken it up by sending us to summer camp or taking us camping for the weekend. In more recent times, ecotourism promotes trips to native rain forests and spectacular natural biosphere preserves.

    Take heart! Even 30 minutes spent immersing ourselves in a forest environment can have a positive impact on brain and neurological functioning and bring a change in health and well-being. In Japan it is called forest bathing or nature therapy. There are “comprehensive benefits” to exposing ourselves to natural and green environments. It does not necessarily involve hiking or walking in the woods. Japanese researchers from the Center for Environmental Health and Field Sciences at Chiba University have reported that sitting in the woods may result in reductions in blood pressure, stress hormones, pulse rate and heart rate. Others studies report reduced depression as well as greater mental clarity. Researchers at Nippon University also found an increase in immunity when noting an increase in the cells which naturally attack or reduce the risk of virus and tumor cells after subjects spent time in the woods.

    Japanese researchers are now encouraging healthcare professionals to join in longitudinal studies on the preventative effects. Research also points to the importance of urban green spaces to promote good health through regular exposure to nature.

    So maybe back to nature is one of the simplest prescriptions for today’s stress overload and your often too busy and hectic lifestyle. EcoTherapy may soon be prescribed as a universal “must have” to ensure long range well being and optimal health!

    Simi Summer, PhD is an independent researcher and freelance writer. She is a strong proponent of organic education and informed consumer choices.