Eco-therapy as an essential way of life
Article first published in Cornwall Today.
There are well-founded fears that as sea levels rise, so will anxiety levels. But as we wake up to the global climate crisis we can make a difference to our personal and planetary health by investing positively in the future.
A turn-of-the-tide in our attitude to the environment is underway. The Earth is warming and the sixth mass extinction is taking place. More than at any time in human history, we need to invest in futures that have less to do with money and possessions and more to do with our most essential relationships - those with ourselves, those we love, and our environment.
A few months ago I encouraged you to start a Lifetime Pension. Don’t worry: this isn’t a new financial service, but a different way to think about investing in your future. We all know that money isn’t the only thing we need to enjoy a happy retirement, but it’s often the only thing we consciously accumulate for our later years. When we spend time exercising, we are investing in this Lifetime Pension; when we express gratitude for small acts of kindness or notice the simple sensorial pleasures - the sound of rain on leaves, a warm bath, the smell of baking bread - we are paying into a Lifetime Pension.
One way you can pay into your own Lifetime Pension is by practising eco-therapy. If the term sounds off-putting, please bear with me. Eco-therapy simply means benefitting from time spent in or with nature. Surfing is a form of eco-therapy, as are mountain biking and horse-riding - as well as less onerous pastimes like strolling around your favourite National Trust gardens or misting your cacti.
Here in Truro, where our clinic is based, nature is being invited back into the city. Plans are underway to rewild areas that have been neglected. Pockets and corridors of green in which we can walk, sit and simply be are being mapped out, redefining what an urban space can be.
Much of the therapy we provide is eco-therapy, meaning only that it takes place outside. Walking whilst talking multiplies the benefits to our health. We are exercising body, mind and soul; working things our and walking them out. Being in nature is freeing, and as we walk side-by-side with another person the difficulty of articulating challenging thoughts melts away amongst the soothing repetition of putting one foot in front of the other.
I would encourage everyone to spend more time outside. Don’t wait for the right weather or a special occasion to visit a beautiful garden or amble along the shoreline. You should consider these excursions essential maintenance of your physical and mental health.
You don’t have to be lumping around the countryside to benefit from nature. Eco-therapies can work just as well in our homes. By bringing the green indoors as summer fades, you will make sure you interact with nature every day, tending to it so that it thrives. The magical thing is that with each new leaf bud or bloom, a small surge of endorphins will flow through your veins, and you’ll thrive too.
Through the humble act of caring for another living thing, we practice self-care, investing in our Lifetime Pension and offset a little of our personal carbon footprint, contributing positively to the environment.
And the benefits needn’t stop there. As your plants thrive, give cuttings to friends and neighbours, sell them at fairs or at the end of your garden. Share the wonder and invest in a different kind of future.