Nurturing nature of ecotherapy

It’s no secret that taking a walk in the park or the country invigorates the body. But two new studies out of the University of Essex say activity in the natural environment is also good for mental well-being.

According to research commissioned by Mind, a United Kingdom-based charity dedicated to mental-health issues, more than 90 percent of the people in one study attributed improvements in their mental state to green exercise. In another study, 90 percent of those surveyed reported higher self-esteem after green-walking, with 71 percent reporting decreased levels of depression. In addition, a majority of participants felt less tense, less fatigued and more vigorous.

The organization cites research indicating more than 90 percent of general practitioners have prescribed antidepressants due to a lack of alternative treatments to depression. In that light, here are some of Mind’s recommendations for promoting ecotherapy:

Recognize: Ecotherapy should be looked at as a valid treatment for mental-health problems.

Refer: General practitioners should consider recommending green exercise as an option for patients experiencing mental distress.

Plan: Architectural and community planners should recognize design with an emphasis on mental wellbeing as a good practice.

Promote: Public health campaigns should echo the benefits of green exercise, especially to young people.