The Benefits of Nature ~ Ecotherapy ~ Ecopsychology ~ Natural Awareness ~ Nature Awareness ~ Walking Therapy ~ Counselling ~ Psychotherapy ~Manchester ~ North West ~ Cheshire ~ Lancashire ~ Wales
There is now much research to support the benefits of nature on our general well-being. Several recent large studies in Japan involving over 1000 subjects, with control groups in built-up environments doing the same activities, have shown that spending time simply walking or contemplating in a forest setting is associated with lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, reduced heart rate and increased heart rate variability. (Park et al, 2010)
Research originally conducted by Ulrich (Ulrich, 1979) in which he showed photographs of nature scenes to students who were about to take an examination, reported a subjective reduction in fear, and a more positive outlook, when compared to those students who were shown photographs of urban built scenes. Recent research has supported Ulrich's results (Chang, 2007). Participants were connected to Electroencephalograph (EEG) equipment to measure their brain wave activity, electromyograph (EMG) to measure muscular tension, and BVP (Blood Volume Pulse) to measure sympathetic arousal through changes in blood flow and pulse. Whilst being shown images of natural scenes in nature, subjects showed higher alpha wave activity and decreased sympathetic arousal when compared to their non-viewing scores, indicating a greater state of relaxation.
In a study conducted by MIND (MIND, 2007), 20 members took two walks in contrasting environments to test the impact on self-esteem, mood and enjoyment. 44% of participants who walked through an indoor shopping centre experienced reduced self-esteem. While 90% of participants on a green walk reported increased self-esteem. 71% reported decreased levels of depression following the green walk. Whilst 22% reported an increase in depression after the walk through the shopping centre. 71% said they felt less tense after the green walk, while 50% said their tension had increase after the shopping centre walk.
In a study held at a residential care facility, elderly residents performed activities both in a classroom and in the garden. In the garden environment cortisol levels were significantly lower indicating reduced stress levels. (Rodiek, 2002)
There are a number of studies which show that exposure to natural environments can affect physical health and recovery from surgery. A view from a window of nature, rather than a built environment speeds recovery after surgery. In a study involving prisoners, those whose cells had a view of a natural environment used less of the health care services, had improved work performance and increase job satisfaction. (Hartig, Mang & Evans, 1991; Ulrich et al, 1991)
Ecotherapy: Combining Nature with Therapy
When the positive effects of nature are combined with traditional psychotherapy and counselling methods carried out by qualified professionals, we get a nature-based therapy which leverages the benefits of both worlds. Clinebell originally coined the term 'ecotherapy' (Clinebell 1996).
Chang C.Y., Perng J.L. (2007) Psychophysiological Responses and Restorative Values of Wilderness Environments, USDA Forest Service Proceedings, p478-484
Clinebell, H (1996) Ecotherapy: Healing Ourselves, Healing the Earth, Minneapolis, Fortress Press
Hartig T, Mang M, Evans G (1991) Restorative Effects of Natural Environment Experiences, Environment and Behavior, VOl 23, No 1, 3-26
MIND (2007) Ecotherapy the green agenda for mental health, MIND
Park B.J, Tsunetsugu Y, Kasetani T, Kagawa T, Miyazaki Y (2010) The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing: evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan, Environ Health Prev Med. 2010 Jan; 15(1):18-26
Ulrich R.S. (1979) Visual landscapes & psychological well being. Landscape Res,4:17-19
Page Last Modified: Friday, 22 March, 2013
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