Green Care and Mental Health

Green Care and Mental Health
Photo by Julie Franklin Photography

Have you ever gone for a stroll in the park or around your neighborhood, and noticed that your spirits are lifted by the time you head back inside? Studies show that being surrounded by nature can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health by reducing feelings of depression, anger, anxiety and more! In fact, mental health professionals have incorporated nature into their treatment programs for decades. Some well-known therapy practices include Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI), Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Ecotherapy [1].

Recently, ecotherapy has been used as an all-encompassing term to describe any sort of healing work that includes activities like working in nature (e.g. a conservation project, gardening or farming) and/or experiencing nature (e.g. admiring the views on a walk or going for a scenic hike) [1]. Due to this broad description, I'm sure that you can imagine all of the different types of ecotherapy programs that exist, including:​

  • Adventure Therapy
  • Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI)
  • Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)
  • Care Farming
  • Environmental Conservation (aka Green Gyms)
  • Green Exercise Therapy
  • Nature Arts and Crafts
  • Social and Therapeutic Horticulture
  • Wilderness Therapy

There are formal ecotherapy programs that are usually group activities outdoors led by a trained professional, as well as sessions in nature that follow a set structure and include psychological treatment [1]. Although working with a trained professional is always the ideal option, there are also ways to incorporate some of these strategies for healing on your own. This, my friends, is what I did (and continue to do) throughout my trauma and eating disorder recovery.

You may have noticed recently that I disappeared from the blogosphere for a while; please accept my apologies. I had to take some time to reset and recharge, and this included a break from social media and blogging. You know how sometimes you wake up and realize that you've been running on autopilot for weeks, and it hits you that you've been merely surviving and not living? That's what happened to me, except this realization then led to a bout of extremely heightened anxiety and a general lack of motivation.

I'm transitioning to a new phase in my life, and my anxiety responded in - AHEM - an extra kind of way.

Once I realized what was happening, I decided to take some time to myself to process my feelings.
I asked myself the following questions: What are my core feelings right now? Why am I feeling this way? How is my body reacting to these emotions, and is that the type of reaction that I want? Am I hurting or helping myself?

I don't know if you've ever had this kind of inner dialogue with yourself, but speaking from personal experience, things can go south very quick.

When doing this kind of introspection, it's important to follow it up with some self-love and self-care. This is where ecotherapy comes in.

During my eating disorder recovery, I rediscovered a connection with nature that many would consider to be spiritual. Now, I am able to use this connection to help heal my mind and body, and actively engage in something I like to call green-care.

​What is green-care, you ask?
For me, green-care is a form of self-love and self-care that incorporates Mother Nature. Right now, my acts of green-care include concepts and skills used in three of the above-listed forms of ecotherapy. These therapies include:

  • Green Exercise (doing exercise in nature)
  • Therapeutic Horticulture (gardening)
  • Nature Arts & Crafts (doing art in or with nature)

These three strategies are what got me through my most recent bout of heightened anxiety, and how I spent most of my free time during my brief blogosphere hiatus.

I plan to share some more information with you about how I engage in green-care, and the healing it is creating in my life, so please stay tuned!

Love & Light,