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Healing ourselves thru Eco-therapy

May 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you're feeling overworked and stressed out, think about all the time you spend indoors. Stress experts say what most of us need is a prescription to get closer to nature. There's actually a name for this anti-stress treatment it is called Eco-therapy.Cheri Albright loves being outdoors, tending to her garden with her girls. She believes the fresh air transforms her.

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"I tend to feel more relaxed and want to do more things, want to run around with the kids," said Albright.

Stress specialist Dr. Kathleen Hall says it's not all in Cheri's head. Studies show being one with nature has positive consequences.

"We're actually seeing the body, mind, and the soul actually act differently in nature than they do in urban societies, and also within a house or within a business environment," said Dr. Hall from the Stress Institute.

Dr. Hall calls this Eco-therapy.

"First is walking, get your family to walk every night at 7:00 or pick a particular time so that every night you're out there at the same time," said Dr. Hall.

We all know it's good to keep the heart pumping and blood circulating, but it's also mood altering.

"Over 70 percent of people report they have significantly decreased symptoms of depressions when they're out in nature. And 88 percent of people say that their moods change immediately just after they begin a walk," said Dr. Hall.

We would all like to get out on a daily basis, but if your schedule doesn't permit it research shows even a snapshot or a screen saver of your favorite place can help ease your mind.

"Photos at your office or at your home or by your bed, keep a picture of where you'd like to be. What we know is that the brain identifies with that and it immediately feels better," said Dr. Hall.

Add a fish tank to the room, or a nature sound machine. The point is to allow your senses to take over. Experts say it's the connection to the rhythm of nature that makes the difference.

"There's lots of sensory stimulation. Think of all of your senses, the smell, smelling the jasmine, the colors of the blue sky, flowers, fresh air, the wind hitting your face," said Dr. Hall.

Cheri Albright says it works for her and she spends all the time she can outside.

"I just definitely have more energy, and more bounce," said Albright.

Web Extra Information

Ecotherapy is about getting out of doors and becoming active in a green environment as a way of boosting mental health, say Mind. This includes taking regular walks in the countryside or the park, flying a kite, or taking part in a gardening therapy project.

In the first study of its kind to examine the effects of green exercise on people with mental health problems, the researchers examined 20 members of a local mental health study group who took part in two walks, one in a country park and one in an indoor shopping centre, to test the impact on self-esteem, mood and enjoyment.

The results showed that:

  • 71 percent reported decreased levels of depression after the green walk.
  • 22 percent felt their depression increased after walking through an indoor shopping center and only 45 percent experienced a decrease in depression.
  • 71 percent said they felt less tense after the green walk.
  • 50 percent said they felt more tense after the shopping center walk.
  • 90 percent said their self-esteem increased after the country walk.
  • 44 percent reported decreased self-esteem after window shopping in the shopping center.
  • 88 percent of people reported improved mood after the green walk.
  • 44.5 percent of people reported feeling in a worse mood after the shopping center walk, 11 percent reported no change and 44.5 percent said their mood improved.
  • 71 percent of people said they felt less fatigued after the green walk and 53 percent said they felt more vigorous.

 

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