The name for my blog came from the realization that time spent in nature is usually the happiest time of my day. I feel the most at peace and the most appreciative of our beautiful planet when I’m away from all things man-made and away from other people. Time spent in the woods or on the water is especially restorative for me, someone who is easily overwhelmed by the busy-ness of city life. So I wasn’t surprised when I read an article in the current issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest the other day called “A Bird A Day Keeps the Doctor Away.” The author, Caitlin Kight, writes about the well-known health benefits of walking and she notes that as a birdwatcher, she gets additional benefits from the physical aspects of her hobby:
“On a purely aesthetic basis, I experience the pleasure of seeing bright colors in beautiful patterns, and hearing cheerful sounds. I become aware that no matter how disastrous my problems may appear, countless other beings around me are going on with life as normal. I may have a deadline looming or a bill to pay, but these guys are dealing with life and death.”
That sort of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
The term “ecotherapy” has been around for a while, but this was the first time I’d heard it. Ecotherapy is the practice of attempting to foster healing by positive interaction with the Earth. Some things that are considered to be ecotherapy: wilderness retreats, working with plants or animals, and voluntary simplicity. (Ah voluntary simplicity, one of my favorites.)
I found some other interesting stuff about ecotherapy too. For example, the Mind organization did a study a few years ago in which they compared people’s feelings of depression and stress before and after they went for a walk either in a country park or in a shopping center. They found that 71 percent of those who went for a walk in nature reported feeling less depressed afterward, while only 45 percent of those who took the mall walk felt better afterward. In fact, those who walked in the mall felt more stress as a result. The rest of their findings are reported here, and I’d encourage you to take a look and see if you aren’t convinced that we all need more time in nature.
And after you read that, go outside and watch the birds. Or the stars. Or the water. Surely you’ve got your own favorite bits of nature, don’t you?