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5 Ways to Reduce Anxiety with Ecotherapy

A person struggling with anxiety and wanting to understand how to ecotherapy can help

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer season typically brings longer days, higher temps, access to locally grown food, and a plethora of activities and celebrations. However, if you suffer from anxiety you might be finding it hard to enjoy everything this time of year has to offer. 

Do you often feel ungrounded, like you’re constantly spinning in a million different directions? Does your mind seem to always be racing with endless to-lists and thoughts or worries about the future, making it difficult to relax? Do you find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep and wake up feeling tired? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might benefit from incorporating one or more of the following practices into your summer schedule!

Strengthening your connection to the world around you - the land, plants, animals, water, and all other aspects of nature - has been shown to benefit your mental health. It can lead to improvements in mood, focus, and sleep quality as well as a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression. What better time to cultivate and nourish your relationship with the natural world than the season of summer?

Ecotherapy is a model of therapy that is based on the idea that our well-being is directly connected to our relationship to the world around us. Below are 5 practices based on the theory and principles of ecotherapy that will increase your feelings of connection to the natural world and leave you feeling more grounded and less anxious!

Mindful Walk

A mindful walk is a practice in which you walk outside with the intention of cultivating a deep sense of present-moment awareness and connection to the world around you. Take advantage of the longer days with this simple practice that can have major benefits for your mental and physical health. 

You can practice mindful walking at any time of the day that works for you. You might try a morning mindful walk to ground before jumping into your work day. Or maybe you use it as a midday break to reset and refresh. Another option is to take an evening mindful walk to decompress and relax your mind and body before bed. A mindful walk can be any length but try to shoot for at least 15 minutes to get the most benefits.

Here are a few tips for your mindful walks:

  • Leave your phone/other tech behind! If you need to keep track of the time, try using a low-tech watch to avoid the temptation to check your notifications. This will help you stay present and fully engaged in your experience while walking.

  • Pay attention to your senses. Notice the colors, sounds, smells, and other sensations as you walk. This will help to bring you fully into the moment.

  • If you notice your mind wandering or getting caught on your thoughts, take a few deep breaths as you pay attention to each step you take. You might try syncing your breath with your steps by inhaling for 4 steps and exhaling for 4 steps (you can adjust the number of steps to suit your natural breath cycle).

Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing)

Shinrin-Yoku, translated as forest bathing, is a Japanese practice that involves simply soaking in the experience of being in a forest environment. This practice can reduce stress hormones and regulate your nervous system, which will allow you to feel less anxious and more relaxed.

If you live in an urban environment, you might find yourself constantly bombarded by artificial stimulation (sounds, lights, technology, etc). To experience the benefits of forest bathing, it is ideal to get out of the chaos of the city so you can fully unplug and tune in. You might check out a nearby state or national park. However, if you find it difficult to access a forest, you can practice forest bathing anywhere that is mostly quiet with a lot of trees.

Similar to a mindful walk, you can use your senses to fully experience the stillness and peace found in nature. You might notice the sound of birds chirping, trees rustling, or a river running. If you feel called to, you might gently feel the texture of bark on a tree or a moss-covered rock. Allow yourself to take deep breaths and notice any scents of the forest such as pine, grass, wildflowers, or other plants.

Let go of doing and embrace your ability to just be. No need to hike, walk, or climb. You can practice forest bathing by standing, sitting, or lying down - find what feels most comfortable for you. Learn more here!

Eat Local, Seasonal, & Mindful

Enjoy the food of the season at a local farmer's market. Local, seasonal food often tastes better and is more nutritious than food that is packaged or has to travel a long distance to reach you. Eating in season can help you feel more grounded and nourished because your body likely craves what is naturally in season.

Another way to combat anxiety is to practice mindful eating by being fully present with your food. It can help you notice hunger and fullness cues more easily, leaving you feeling satisfied and connected to your body. Check out this 7-step process for mindful eating.

Hands to the Earth

Ever heard of a community garden? Most cities and towns have programs through which you can plant your own garden. There are many benefits of joining a community garden or turning your own yard into a garden. You save money by growing your own food, you can avoid pesticides and other harmful chemicals, you reduce your environmental footprint, and you can gain a sense of community by sharing your harvest with friends, family, and neighbors.

Additionally, recent studies have found that coming into contact with a type of bacteria in soil known as Mycobacterium vaccae can trigger the release of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found throughout the body that helps regulate our mood, sleep, digestion, and ability to clot blood and heal wounds. Increasing serotonin by playing in the dirt is an easy way to reduce feelings of anxiety. Learn more here.

Pay it Forward

A key principle of ecotherapy is cultivating a reciprocal relationship with the natural world. In addition to enjoying all that our beautiful planet has to offer, it can be helpful to make time to give back in some way.

You might organize or participate in a neighborhood park or beach cleanup. Whenever you head out for a nature adventure, remember to bring a bag to collect any trash you find along the way.

Action is often known as the enemy of anxiety. Doing something good for the planet and all beings who dwell here will help get you unstuck from your anxious thoughts and more connected to the world around you.

Incorporating just one of these practices into your day will help restore your connection to the world around you and allow you to feel more grounded, relaxed, and present. These practices help to calm your nervous system and can reduce feelings of anxiety that usually keep you on high alert. If you’re looking for a way to find more joy and connection this summer, ecotherapy practices can be an effective tool to do just that!

If you are interested in working with a therapist who specializes in anxiety or ecotherapy, you can book a free 20-minute consultation today. Additionally, group therapy can be extremely helpful for tackling anxiety, so be sure to check out all of our group offerings here at Catalyss Counseling.

How We Can Help

If you are looking for general support, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact us today for a free 20-minute phone consultation

  2. Or, you can book directly online with the therapist of your choice

  3. Begin your journey towards a calmer, more relaxed life

Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:

Author Biography

A therapist for Catalyss Counseling

Juliette Brown is a therapist at Catalyss Counseling. She works with adults with depression, anxiety, and grief to find new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting so they can experience greater joy and authenticity in their everyday lives. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Sofa Blum
Sofa Blum
6 days ago

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