I’ve loved nature and animals ever since I was little. When I was in school I decided I wanted to do Floristry as a career and went to college to study it. I don’t always love being outside, I like to come back into the warmth and watch a movie in bed, but the way that nature has helped my mental illness is irrefutable.
Ecotherapy has been a massive topic in mental health communities for a long time now, and many studies have proven that it really does help. Here’s 5 ways that it can benefit you and how to use it effectively.
It’s obvious that sunlight makes most people feel better about their days. I know when I wake up, if it’s raining and cloudy I instantly feel worse than I would do if it was really sunny and mildly warm. There is science behind ecotherapy and how this works, but to be honest I like to focus more on the personal evidence. When the world is sunny it helps me to realise that there are bigger things in the universe. When it’s warm and it touches my skin it’s a rare feeling for me since I live in England, making me happier. Everything is brighter, people around you seem happier, and everything is great. If you think about other positive situations that sunlight can cause, it makes the effect even better.
For example, my dog likes to lay in the sunlight beams which shine through my patio door. It makes his fur all warm and I like to run my fingers through it, because it makes me feel content. Plants and flowers grow with sunshine, making the world bloom in pretty colours and smells. It’s nicer to go for walks, take a picnic, go to the beach, and go out with friends when it’s sunnier. Farmers can grow yummy vegetables and fruits with good sunlight, meaning we all get to eat healthy, organic foods.
It’s about thinking of the little things. Sunlight may not seem like a big thing to you, but each little thing that sunlight causes might do.
Walking is the biggest thing I have ever done to help my mental illness. When I was really bad, all I wanted to do was lay in bed and do nothing. The thought of going on a walk either terrified me because of my anxiety or made me cry out of dread because of depression. I woke up one day and looked out my window, and I saw the man that lives across the street from me walking his tiny pug (he does this pretty much everyday). He looked so relaxed, the pug looked happy and was bouncing along, the sun was shining. I decided to go for a walk, just quickly around my street, it would only take 10 minutes and if anything I’d get some fresh air.
It worked, and I managed to walk for 20 minutes that day. I walked on the side of the road, in the woods, and soon after I got home I wanted to go out again. Not only are walks exercise, which everyone knows can release endorphins which helps with depression… but I was so lost in my own thoughts during the walk it didn’t seem like I was doing exercise. I was outside, there were lots of things for me to look at and think about, the light breeze on my face felt good, and on top of that the sun was shining. I even met a few dogs along the way.
Personally, I don’t go out in my garden at home. It’s small, I’m too lazy to be a beginner at gardening, and it’s too much work. I just let my mum deal with it. However, I do have a Floristry degree and I do enjoy learning about plants. Sometimes in the summer I’ll plant a few things in a pot and see what happens. It’s fun to watch them grow and look after them, and then finally see them bloom when they’re ready. I also used to buy house plants a lot, I still do, but just less often as I always kill them (I know, I know, it’s bad). When I was at my worst I used to love speaking to my plants, not because I was absolutely insane or anything, but just because it’s nice to talk to something that can’t talk back. Also, I firmly believe talking to your plants helps them grow. They need a friend too, you know?!
If you don’t want to do gardening outside, there are so many inside horticulture options for you to try. You can even use dried flowers and leaves to make art, or use them in candle making, or grow scented plants and use them in other crafts projects. Hanging ceiling plants makes a room look more cosy, more colourful, and the fact that you have other living things inside your home will make you feel less alone too.
I know every single person who is an animal lover to some extent will say this, but I am THE biggest fan of animals you will ever find. I didn’t used to be so into it, but ever since I got my springer spaniel 5 years ago, that was it. It’s gotten to the point where if I am feeling low or upset, my boyfriend knows that the only thing that cheers me up fully is watching dog and cat videos on the internet.
It kind of coincides with walking, but when I was really ill I used to find walks where I would pass a farm or some sort of animal enclosure, with cows or sheep, etc. Even though you couldn’t usually touch them, you can still look and maybe even talk to them (if you don’t mind looking a bit strange in public). It was nice to watch a bunch of cows just slowly wander around a field with no care in the world. Animals are so carefree most of the time, and I think that rubs off on you when you hang out with them. Not only that, but they’re always happy to see you.
If you don’t have any pets already, maybe consider fostering pets? You can also be a pet sitter, work in a pet shelter, or work on a farm. There’s so many opportunities for bringing some sort of animal connection into your life, and it’s totally worth it.
Helping the environment isn’t something I’ve been great at, I have to admit. It’s not that I don’t care about it, I’m just bad at keeping up with things that I start on an impulse. However, there are many pieces of evidence that helping the environment in some way can improve your mental health. This is because it helps you to understand the importance of what you’re doing, gives you purpose, and at the same time gets you outside (usually).
The MIND website has a lot more information on how you can help the environment whilst practicing ecotherapy at home. I recommended following THIS link to find out more! I know I will.
I’m proud that I managed to get myself outside, doing things. Staying indoors all day was fine, but it wasn’t getting me the fresh air and relaxation from natural therapies that I needed. I strongly recommend reading some of the links I’ve left throughout this post, and learning about how ecotherapy can help you, too.
Love, Chaz x
[This post contains a couple of affiliate links]