Ever stand on a mountain overpass, breathe in the air and feel innately at peace? Well, there may be a scientific reason for that.
Green therapy, also called ecopsychology, operates around the idea that spending time in nature can improve mental health and emotional well-being on a biological level.
The term was coined by the scholar Theodore Roszak and further developed by others like biologist E.O. Wilson. The primary take-away of the idea is that although we live in a modernized, technological, society the human mind is still adapted to the natural environment from which it evolved. Essentially, humans are genetically programmed to feel a sense of peace and connection to nature and can reap the health benefits from spending time in “green spaces.”
In the age of technology, it is easy to get alienated from our nature-based origins. To surround ourselves in cement and glass in an attempt to thrive in an urban landscape is not what our bodies were originally suited for.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest–the Evergreen State–where the mild climate permits an abundance of green year-round. I had no idea how much this exposure to “green space” helped my mental and emotional well-being until I was separated from it. I moved across the country to New England to begin a graduate school program in a large city. After months of walking through the gray streets of my new home, I realized how desperate my body and mind were for nature. This trapped feeling I was experiencing is what got me researching green therapy.
Studies have shown that spending time in green spaces can be, in some cases, as effective as medication for things like ADHD and depression. In general, it can help improve mental well-being and self-esteem. So, after researching, I prescribed myself a daily dose of green (at least an hour of time spent in a substantially green outdoor area) and was amazed at the results. I am happy to report that I have found a way to improve my overall well-being–and the best part is it’s simple, enjoyable, and free!
If you’re interested in the benefits green therapy and green spaces have to offer, here’s a comprehensive guide to get you started.
Green Space Possibilities
The type of green space needed may depend on the person. If you can only find a small amount of time in the day or you’re not a huge fan of the outdoors, you have completely different green space needs than someone who enjoys being outside or has a lot of time to spare. Some examples of green spaces, with a variety of needs accounted for, are:
- A large park
- A farm
- A soccer or football field
- A community garden
- A patio full of potted plants
- A forest
Green Activity Suggestions
When you are in a green space it is important to be present in the moment. But being present doesn’t necessarily mean silence or stillness; it means getting involved in a green activity. Based on your specific interests and the green environment you pick there are many possibilities including:
- A walk
- Sports or other games
- Reading or writing under a tree
Sitting or doing work by a window can also help, though may not be as effective as being outside.
Added Benefits From Going Green
While some of the benefits were listed above, green therapy has the potential to do so much more. Benefits may include:
- Improved mental and emotional wellbeing
- Improved overall health
- Higher self-esteem
- A sense of peace and harmony with surroundings
- Mental clarity
- No side effects
- It’s free
- You can do it alone or with other people