Embracing nature to recover your life with ecotherapy

The reduction of stress, anxiety and negative moments is the basis of the well-being that people seek every day. These three components of modern life must be managed in the best possible way so that they don’t affect our daily activities.  The pace of modern life has an important impact on the psychophysical balance of individuals: in particular, sedentary life is one of the main causes of the stress that we have to deal with every day. Ecotherapy is definitely one of the simplest and most intuitive activities to improve these increasingly important parameters for happiness and well-being.
We spend too much time in the office, in front of screens with artificial light: all conditions that make us feel tired, off- centre and bored. To prevent further problems or the need to start taking medicines, ecotherapy can be a welcome solution. Interacting with nature in nature is one of the best tools for self-improvement.

But what does ecotherapy mean? How much does a walk in a forest really improve our mood and of those around us?

Technogym Village: eco-friendly excellence

From the natural cooling system of buildings to clean energy, Technogym is committed to ensuring that its headquarters is a model of ecological efficiency in every aspect. The design of the headquarters, designed by Antonio Citterio & Partners and inaugurated in 2012, recalls the concepts of eco-sustainability and bio-architecture, in order to protect the environment and save energy.
Large self-opening windows in the attic use air recirculation to lower the temperature inside the building. In addition, an automatic curtain system allows the internal temperature of the office to be adjusted according to the intensity of the sunlight, also with a view to saving energy. Particular attention is paid to the lighting of the building, oriented to follow the path of the sun, from dawn to dusk, thus limiting the energy expenditure.

What is ecotherapy?

Ecopsychology or ecotherapy started in California at the beginning of the nineties, starting from the observation of a correlation between the growing existential, individual and social unease, and the increase in environmental degradation, parallel to the rapid process of urbanization that has radically changed the lifestyles and habits of a large part of the world's population.

Ecotherapy is the practical application of ecopsychology.

Because green is good for health

Although it has not been proven with certainty exactly what it is about outdoor excursions, scientific research on the subject of ecotherapy is definitely growing and confirmation of the connection between time spent in nature and the reduction of stress, anxiety and depression.

A 2015 study for example compares the brain activity of a sample of people after walking for 90 minutes in a natural or urban environment. They found that those who took a walk in the green had had less activity in the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain that activates the rumination phase - where people tend to repeat thoughts and focus on negative emotions.

If people are depressed or subjected to excessive stress this part of the brain does not work well, and the risk is to experience a continuous cycle of negative thoughts. In addition to this, it seems that interaction with green spaces offers other therapeutic benefits. For example, by appreciating the sounds of nature or the silence outdoors, you can lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Once you have defined how to appreciate ecotherapy, it is important to understand how to administer nature therapy yourself in order to live everyday life to the full.

How long does it take to appreciate the effects?  How many times a week?

Ways and times for ecotherapy

It takes 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week, plus a few weekends each month in the woods to find yourself in nature. The point is to make interactions with nature an integral part of the way of life. Time spent in nature has in its entirety a great deal of beneficial effects, regardless of the activity in which it takes place: a daily walk in a park or a Saturday afternoon on a local path, as well as trail running.
You can combine hiking in nature with regular exercise on foot or by bicycle outdoors, and the choice of the environment in which you are immersed in nature is important for the overall benefits you can achieve.  Whether it's a park or a wood outside the city, the important thing is to focus on the places considered most pleasant and suitable for activities, with the declared aim of moving away from over-stimulating urban environments and always surrounded by greenery and nature: meadows, trees, lakes prepare the best to detach and clear your mind of waste.

Ecotherapy: alone or in a group?

The good thing is that you don't have to go on your own solo excursions, but living ecotherapy with friends doesn't affect the final result of the activity. A study in 2014 found that walking in a group in nature is as effective as hiking alone in terms of reducing depression and stress and improving overall mental health. Nature can have a powerful effect on our mental state and there are many ways to draw on it. The best (and only) way to experience the effectiveness of eco-therapy is simply to spend more time outdoors, trying to interact with other living beings.
La cosa bella è che non è necessario compiere le proprie escursioni in solitaria, anzi vivere l’ecoterapia in compagnia non influisce sul risultato finale dell’attività. Uno studio del 2014 ha rilevato che le passeggiate di gruppo nella natura, sono efficaci quanto le escursioni in solitaria in termini di riduzione della depressione, dello stress e di miglioramento delle prospettive mentali generali. La natura può avere un effetto potente sul nostro stato mentale e ci sono molti modi per attingervi.
Il miglior (e unico) modo per sperimentare l'efficacia dell'eco-terapia consiste semplicemente nel trascorrere più tempo all'aria aperta, cercando di interagire con gli altri esseri viventi.

The disciplines of ecotherapy: a selection

There are many different toric disciplines that are related and often related to ecotherapy:
  1. Biophilia - is a discipline where it is not possible to live a complete life far from nature, even if mediated by photos or videos. Dutch studies have in fact shown how it is sufficient to observe a lush natural landscape in photography which helps to observe increase the uptake of a positive perspective, opening up horizons towards more optimistic existential perspectives. People's exposure to natural landscapes extends their temporal horizons, while exposure to urban landscapes dramatically narrows their perspectives.
  • Silvotherapy - Embracing a tree to feel better. It consists of direct contact with the trunks of tall plants. The technique is very simple: the back is placed on the trunk, the palm of the right hand is placed on the solar plexus that corresponds to the mouth of the stomach and the back of the left is placed in contact with the kidneys. In this position, you make slow and deep breaths for about twenty minutes. If Silvotherapy is then supplemented with physical exercises or even better with yoga, we speak of "Active Silvotherapy". Among the benefits, there seems to be a marked improvement in nervousness and insomnia. The explanation is to be found in the production of negative ions of the trees: the negative ionization of the air creates a general feeling of body relaxation, leads to detoxification and improvement of breathing, as well as an increase in the assimilation of vitamins B and C, and a higher level of concentration.
  • Vegetable garden therapy - The world can be divided into two types of people: indoor people and outdoor people. Similarly there are those of us who are gardeners and those who are not particularly interested in gardening or laying hands in the ground but wholike the appearance of a garden and will take an outdoor walk on a sunny day. Orthotherapy is now a support to the conventional treatments of many hospitalsbut it is a fact that taking care of a vegetable garden is a natural anti-stress remedy. If you don't have a vegetable garden, it is enough to grow aromatic plants (maybe even in the office) and you can enjoy benefits that include increased productivity at work and better concentration.
  • Garden Therapy - is a form of holistic therapy, useful for promoting health and inner well-being. It is mainly associated with looking after the garden, with particular reference to plants and flowers, and in some cases aromatherapy. Thanks to garden therapy, in fact, our sense of smell is positively stimulated by the scents emanating from the corollas and aromatic herbs that we can take care of. Caring for the garden promotes serenity, gives hope and the desire to commit oneself.

The positive effects of nature on our body

Among the proven effects on wellness of echotherapy:

  • Increased energy: walking in the green or admiring the sunset helps lift our mood and energy. Nature is the fuel of the soul. Those who organise outdoor activities at the weekend are more regenerated at the beginning of the week than those who have spent hours on the sofa or in front of the television;
  • Stress reduction: in contact with nature, cortisol, the notorious stress hormone, reduces its devastating effects on the body. The result is a reinvigorated and strengthened immune system.
  • Memory improvement: Dementia symptoms are reduced by increased contact with green spaces. In clinics, they work to achieve precisely this type of benefit. Being outdoors increases memory by 20%. The stillness and vital energy that you breathe allows memories to emerge more easily and enhances the functioning of cognitive faculties. It is recommended to study outdoors.
  • Creativity development: Children who were used to spending their free time outdoors develop a strong bond with the earth and its beauty. They are curious children with a fervent imagination.
In conclusion, the benefits that nature has on the human condition are certainly many. This is demonstrated by some meta-analyzes, which demonstrate that exposure, even of short duration to nature (fifteen minutes) is related to an increase in levels of positive effects and reduced levels of negative effects. In fact, research has consistently shown to bring numerous psychological, cognitive and physiological benefits as a result of a contact with nature. In addition to the positive effects of contact with nature, research also shows that contact with nature also translates into a reduction of a wide array of negative emotions such as depression, anger, aggression, frustration and hostility.

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