There’s always been a discussion about what is the best treatment or medication we should take, especially when speaking of conditions such as anxiety or depression. It’s believed we are the source of these problems and we are the ones who can cure ourselves. Yet, sometimes, we need a little helping hand and, in this case, green therapy can be the solution.
What is green therapy?
Green therapy, also known as nature or eco therapy, refers to spending time outdoors, particularly in nature. Here we include forests, local parks, natural reservations and any other similar area.
Patients who follow this therapy usually go for walks (sometimes followed by their therapists), hikes or do exercises outside. It also includes gardening, agriculture, animal care and drawing.
It has been seen it has had a positive effect on those suffering from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), depression and other related illnesses. It’s become a great alternative to drugs and medication.
What you need to know about mental illnesses
When speaking about mental illnesses, we generally refer to anxiety and depression. The first term refers to a disorder which causes fear, nervousness and worrying. The second one is related to a mood disorder which makes people have a strong feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
It’s rather common for those who suffer from depression to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. In fact, studies show us that almost half of the people with depression also have anxiety.
Anxiety has become one of the greatest mental illnesses. In the USA, it affects 40 million adults (18+ years). Besides the symptoms described above, people who suffer from an anxiety disorder are “three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.”
Because we’ve mentioned earlier ADHD, it’s important to say a few words about this condition. It refers to a brain disorders which causes inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, making it harder for people who suffer from it to function and develop normally. Some may have only one behavior, while other patients may experience all of them.
Each person can have a certain degree of inattention or impulsivity, but those with ADHD have it at a severe level. Those three behaviors occur regularly and affect their personal and professional life.
Why green therapy is a good treatment for mental illnesses
There are different types of green therapy. A few examples are:
- horticulture therapy
- assisted animal therapy
- agrotherapy & care farming
- green exercise
Let’s take each of them and see what benefits it brings.
This therapy refers to working with plants while supervised by a professional. The environment and type of work helps patients relax and engage in stress-relieving activities.
Assisted animal therapy
This is probably a more common therapy. It involves different animals (usually dogs) and patients interacting with them: they walk with them, play and even talk to them. This treatment is always supervised.
What’s great about animal assisted therapy is that it can reduce anxiety, improves attention, self-esteem and fills people with joy, literally.
Agrotherapy & care-farming
This is a combination between taking care and cultivating crops. As horticulture, it provides a great environment for relaxation and socializing.
As its name says it, this green therapy involves taking walks, jogging, hiking, cycling and other similar activities in nature.
It has a calming effect, helping patients relax, reduces stress, anger, depression and improves self-esteem. Having a direct contact with nature has a positive effect on people with mental conditions.
Research also showed the positive impact green therapy has. One study illustrated that children who engaged on a regular basis in outdoor activities had fewer ADHD symptoms than those who did more indoor activities.
In what concerns depression, one study compared the impact of green therapy and window shopping on such people. Nearly 71% said they felt less tensed and 90% said their self-esteem improved. On the other hand, those who went window shopping, 50% felt more tension and 44% said their self-esteem decreased.
Stepping into an open fresh space can be more helpful than spending a couple of hours in a closed area such as a shopping mall. It can be observed that green therapy has a positive effect on people suffering from mental conditions.
Yet, we don’t need a problem in order to practice it. Going for a walk in the park or doing some exercise outside is beneficial for our health. After a stressful working day or a full school day, even an hour in nature can do miracles for our body. It can help us maintain a balanced healthy lifestyle.