• Vanessa Opal June

Ten Refreshing Ways to Practice Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy is a wellness modality in which nature is used to improve our overall well-being. In fact, there are tons of new studies are proving that spending time in nature can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger; strengthen the immune system; improve cardiovascular and metabolic health; and boost overall well-being—it's amazing what as little as fifteen minutes a day outdoors can do for you!

As a New York City chef, I spent long days in windowless kitchens, with quick, infrequent breaks to stand outside in the sunshine when I could take the time; those moments immediately lifted my spirits and gave me the boost of energy I needed to finish service—and get me back outside into the fresh air.

Whether you have a high-demand job like me or you'd simply like to bring more nature into your daily routine, here are some inspiring ways to practice ecotherapy🌿

1. Schedule Daily Walks

It sounds too simple to even bother doing, but I promise, it's worth the effort. A lot of times, we don't step out to get some much-needed fresh air because we're not being mindful with our time. It's really easy to get caught up in our work, and afterward to fall into our comforting routines—but does any part of your everyday schedule actively involve at least fifteen minutes outdoors? If it doesn't, make the effort to write it into your calendar: Ecotherapy: 1pm–1:15pm. Even if you pend your outdoor time walking around the block, sitting on a park bench or just taking a quick walk to the store—that fresh air is needed, and you'll feel more refreshed for the effort.

2. Plan a Nature Hike

This requires a bit more planning than your outdoor fifteen, but again, worth the effort. Some cities have large parks where you can spend the day meandering and climbing—I spent every weekend in Central Park growing up, and later in DC's Rock Creek Park in my twenties. Find somewhere accessible nearby, or plan an excursion out of the city and hit a state or national park. This is a great opportunity to invite friends for an energising day trip together! If you prefer going solo, as I often do, have at it! Just be sure to let friends or family know your destination—safety first!

3. Go Camping

Planning ahead is required for this one as well, only you'll be planning for an overnight adventure (or a weeklong trip, if you're addicted to camping like me). Whether you make this a family/friends trip or solo, one thing is for sure: A night sky, far away from city lights is undeniably breath-taking.

4. Plant a Garden

For the green thumb-inclined (of which, sadly I am not), growing your own plants, flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables is a meditative practice. Live in the city and lack backyard space? Start a window box, a rooftop garden (with permission!), or join a local urban garden.

5. Go Bird-Watching

Bird-watching isn't just for ornithologists; you can find lots of meetups and groups to get outside and spot local and migrating birds that are flitting about all around you.

6. Visit Your Arboretum or Botanical Garden

This is a great option for anyone who wants a perfectly manicured nature-fix. Many are open year-round and offer seasonal themes and stunning blossoms.

7. Keep a Plant on Your Work Desk

You might have a job that keeps you indoors for hours on end—extra compassion for those who don't have windows. Get yourself a small houseplant that can thrive in low lighting (ferns are beautiful and grow in shaded areas) for your desk. Having plants at your work desk help to reduce stress, increase productivity and reduce sickness!

8. Pack a Picnic

One of my personal favourites on this list, I love a good picnic. This can be as simple as a sandwich from the deli and a seat under a tree, to an all-out silverware and linens worthy of the 'Gram (I do the former often, unless it's my birthday, then it's the latter).

9. Take a Beach Day

Summer is finally here! Grab a towel, some sunscreen and your water bottle and head out to the beach for the day. The smell of the salt in the air, the sound of the waves, the sun on your face—don't you feel better just reading this? Take a day and make it happen!

10. Open Your Windows

By far the simplest, yet least considered; fresh air makes all the difference. Open all of your windows, weather permitting, for at least an hour a day. It's the perfect refresher for your space and helps to lessen the cooped up feeling we're all experiencing during quarantine. Living in a city and it's a bit too loud out? Open the windows and play some music to mask the traffic and set the mood for whatever kind of day you're planning!

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©2020 by Vanessa Opal June