Eco-therapy: The Walking and Talking Cure

Urbanisation and today’s “digital” lifestyle promotes stress and a sense of alienation. Does nature hold the key to our inner peace and development?

Jasper wondered what was happening to him. It had been quite some time since he felt like his usual self. Ever since he had been promoted from managing director of a small-town bank branch, to a role in Treasury at its London head office, his mental state hadn’t been the same. He was anxious and restless. He missed his old country house, his daily walks with his dog in the woods, and being surrounded by nature. In London he was lucky if he managed a short walk in the nearest park, a subway’s stop away. And even then this only served to make his nostalgia for the woods more poignant.

His current state of mind was affecting his motivation and quality of work. He found it a challenge to maintain focus; he made mistakes and was often in a foul mood. In fact, Jasper was seriously questioning whether he would be able to hold onto his job.

Nature deficit disorder

According to the American author Richard Louv (as developed in his book The Nature Principle), people living in today’s world often suffer from what he called “nature deficit disorder”, the negative, behavioural consequences of the divorce of humans from their natural habitat. He is not alone in this observation. A substantial body of research reflects on the restorative benefits of being connected to nature. According to studies, our mood improves dramatically when we spend time outside. Being in nature appears to decrease the presence of stress hormones in our blood, our respiration rate, and our brain activity. And, as we saw in the case of Jasper, it can even affect our psychological mood.

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