Doctors of the modern age have coined a term that last century’s practitioners might have a difficult time understanding: ecotherapy. Partly a prescription to just go out and enjoy the sunshine, ecotherapy is the process of easing stress, anxiety, depression, and other typical psychological ailments through nature walks and time outdoors in the sun.
It’s a method of holistic medicine that focuses on treatments that are not necessarily based on chemical intrusions as a means of healing, but rather on attaining a healthy body through natural means, like water, massage, and vitamin supplements. Ecotherapy is too new to be backed by exhaustive scientific testing, but it has received great reviews from many patients.
Despite the lack of concrete scientific evidence, many medical professionals are hopeful that a walk through nature will soon become what the doctor orders.
Reasons for ecotherapy’s effectiveness
As ecotherapy is used primarily to treat psychological conditions, it is more difficult to determine its effectiveness other than by the testimonials of patients. SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is a common form of depression that comes from a change of the seasons, typically during the cold or rainy months, and it dramatically affects the mood of the affected patient.
SAD often boils down to a deficiency in Vitamin D, which has an impact on the way the brain releases neurotransmitters like seratonin and dopamine.
Treatments for this deficiency include pills, lamps that shine light which closely resembles sunlight, and changes in diet. However, Vitamin D also comes from the sun, and those who are deficient can often obtain the right amount of this important vitamin merely by stepping outside for a few hours each day.
Seasonal Affective Disorder isn’t the only condition that can be improved by ecotherapy, though. A new graduate program in ecotherapy at John F. Kennedy University includes animal-based therapy, horticultural therapy, and time-stress management. These all relate to healing general stress and anxiety disorders — conditions that cause the body to deteriorate more quickly and affect the health of the heart, digestive tract, brain, and even structural tissues like joints and bone.
Why you should get some sun
Even if you don’t receive a prescription for ecotherapy, every human being on the planet needs Vitamin D to survive and have a happy, healthy brain. Explore botanical gardens, walk along the beach, travel to countries along the equator, spend some time each day sitting in your back garden, go hiking on the weekends.
All of these are effective ways to address the fatigue and irritability that come with a Vitamin D deficiency. Just don’t forget your sunscreen.
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