According to Eco Therapist J. Phoenix Smith, soil has healing properties that can thwart depression and address an array of health concerns. I understand you may be nodding slowly, attempting to absorb this new information whilst maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism. Understandably so- let’s break this down. Eco Therapists are recognised medical practitioners licensed to provide nature based activity programs that will aid in both physical and mental health. Ecotherapy is one of multiple advances in modern medicine. Perhaps you’d call it a holistic approach. Listen to birdsong through your headphones. Start a veggie or plant garden and consider the seeds and their growth a metaphor reflecting life’s transitional essence. Find a spot in a park and plant yourself there for twenty minutes each week. Resist the urge to check your phone. Instead, bring a good old pad of paper and a pen. Note down the week to week and seasonal changes you observe.
Zarr is part of a growing group of healthcare professionals who are, in a way, medicalising nature and highlighting the correlation between western and alternative medicine. A compendium of three hundred and eighty two locals parks, all of which have been mapped out and rated on accessibility, safety and amenities, are part of a community health initiative that the good doctor created. Park prescriptions are a low risk and cost intervention that people are quick to accept. Sure, you’re more likely to move around in a park than when watching tv, but there’s more to this concept. Researchers in the United Kingdom found that people who undertook physical exercise in a natural setting over a synthetic environment experienced less anger, fatigue and sadness. Furthermore, the blood flow to the part of the brain associated with brooding was reduced. In a well documented study on the topic, patients recovering from gallbladder surgery healed faster and with fewer complications when their hospital room looked out on trees rather than a wall.
This kind of research is why cities across the world are investing in urban greening schemes. Even in built up areas, green spaces such as nature reserves, parks and tree lined streets offer a connection to wildlife, provide cooling shade in the summer and visual respite from man made structures. The accumulation of these experiences in nature can help distract us from sources of stress, improve cognition, sleep quality, lead to increased physical activity and keep us healthy and out of hospital. Take residential building One Central Park, which put Sydney suburb Chippendale on the map. It has been named best tall building in the world, trumping over eighty four other entries. One Central Park is among an elite collection of the world’s best new buildings. It was the love child of visionaries Jean Nouvel, architect, and Patrick Blanc, french artist and botanist. One Central Park combines polished highrises, a shopping centre, rooftop gardens and a swimming pool. All areas are either overlooked by or have greenery incorporated within them. This ambitious project has drawn international acclaim and attention for its impressive vertical garden, the largest and most beautiful of its kind. Patrick Blanc is to thank for this. The garden features thirty five thousand irrigated plants that cascade down eleven hundred metres of the buildings exterior. Imagine being the one responsible for watering such a structure! One Central Park has won numerous awards the like of The International Green Infrastructure award, the Landscape Design award at the Sydney Design awards, the LEAF Sustainability award and the UDIA award for Design & Innovation and Development of the Year.
The Japanese people coined this term for spending time in nature whilst being mindful. To try it yourself, why not head over to your local nature reserve or park? Wander the trails and make sure to engage your senses as you walk. Pick out five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This will have the effect of bringing you back to the here and now, grounding you in the present.
The Japanese coined this term for spending time mindfully in nature. To try it yourself, head to a nature reserve or park and wander the trails, engaging your senses as you walk. An easy way to do this is to simply pick out five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste, suggests Maz. It’s a quick way to bring you back to the here and now.
No matter your speed, getting your hands dirty has a calming effect. Perhaps you like to plant herbs or are in the process of potting an indoor fern. Gardening is a lesser known form of meditation. If you plan to add greenery to your backyard or balcony, native plants are usually easy to grow, won’t break any wildlife rules and will attract diverse bird life. Take the Australian Grevilleas for instance. They’d be quite lovely if they didn’t cause me to break out in a rash!
This exercise requires you to slip off your shoes and feel the grass under your feet. Draw attention to the individual blades and notice the sensations that arise. Spending time barefoot in nature allows you to tap into the earth’s natural charge. It serves to re-energise you.
Bush Adventure Therapy:
Do you remember the last time you spent a night under the stars or abseiled down a cliff face? This unique therapy sees counsellors guide people on outdoor expeditions to help them work through issues ranging from chronic illness to trauma.
Outdoor workouts are perhaps the simplest tip of all. If your local gym is closed or you don’t feel comfortable exercising in such a sweaty, enclosed space during the pandemic, green spaces can be a great alternative setting. Exercising in nature is known to improve your mental health and give you a dose of socialisation without the risk.