Nature and Mental Health

Do you need a prescription for nature?

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 Doctors Orders: A Dose of Nature

Many health care researchers and practitioners say that ecotherapy (also known as green therapy, nature therapy, and earth-centered therapy) — a term coined by pastoral counselor Howard Clinebell in his 1996 book of the same name — can have regenerative powers, improving mood and easing anxiety, stress, and depression.

Health care providers are also giving their patients “nature prescriptions” to help treat a variety of medical conditions, from post-cancer fatigue to obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

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What is Eco-therapy?

Eco-therapy is an intervention that improves mental and physical health and well being by supporting people to be active outdoors: doing gardening, food growing or environmental work.

Recent research has shown that eco-therapy can:

Help people look after their mental well being

Support people who may be at risk of developing a

     mental health problems

Help the recovery of people with existing mental

     problems

How do we know nature is beneficial?

  1. A 2007 study from the University of Essex in the U.K., for example, found that a walk in the country reduces depression in 71% of participants. The researchers found that as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation.
  1. A 2014 study in the journal Environmental Science &Technology showed a strong relationship between people’s mental health and their proximity to green urban areas. The effect of this relationship was actually more significant than that of household incomes.
  1. A study in 2014 showed that access to a garden and use of parks and playgrounds were related to improving children’s conduct, peer relations and alleviating hyper-activity problems.
  1. A 2006 study investigated the benefits of contact with nature and found that it could help prevent mental health disorders.
  1. Research studying public housing in Chicago and randomly assigned each subject to a room with a view of grass and trees or a view of a barren courtyard. They found that subjects who were assigned to rooms with a view of nature had fewer aggressive conflicts, incidents of domestic violence, procrastinated less on goals they deemed important, and were less likely to believe that they had unsolvable problems than subjects who had views of the courtyard.

mentalhealth3 a young girl gazed at the desert landscape Photo: John Burchman, National Geographic

 

Connecting with Nature

     There are a few things you can do as a self-assessment to strengthen

     your connection with nature. Reflect on the following questions:

     -How much time do you spend in nature each day?

     -How much screen time do you have each day?

     -Do you have a place in nature you can escape to on a regular basis?

     -Are you actively engaged in learning more about the natural

      environment?

     -Do you have a hobby such as hiking, birding, or gardening that

      inspires you to be outside?

     -Do you read books or articles about the natural environment to

      strengthen your knowledge and for inspiration?

Connecting with Nature in Taiwan

More than half of Taiwan is mountainous and heavily forested.  There are with a multitude of national parks, forests and reserves to explore. Even in Taipei, you are never more than an hour away from the great outdoors. Here are some easily accessible ways for you to connect with Nature in Taiwan:

 

Hiking and camping:

Taiwan is fantastic for hiking and camping in the mountains. For routes and information in English, check:

-Taipei Escapes 1&2 by Richard Saunders (available at the Center)

-Connect with Richard’s facebook group “ Taipei Hikers” and meet up with other people interested in the outdoors.

-Check out one of the many blogs written by ex-pats living in Taiwan like: “Hiking in Taiwan” (https://hikingtaiwan.wordpress.com/hiking/)

-For group hikes in the mountains led by professional guides:

Taiwan Adventures: http://www.taiwan-adventures.com/

A walk in the park:

Taipei is filled with small and large parks. Just sitting in the park around the corner from your house is a great place to start. Even better is taking 20 to 30 minutes to walk around any of larger parks in Taipei city.

-For a list of larger parks all around Taipei, check out:

   Taiwan Explorer: List of parks in Taipei

http://mykafkaesquelife.blogspot.tw/2012/09/list-of-parks-in-taipei.html

Gardening

Jianguo Holiday Flower Market is the right place to find fresh flowers, plants, seeds, and gardening accessories.

Sources:

http://www.medicaldaily.com/benefits-ecotherapy-being-nature-fights-depression-improves-mental-health-and-well-being-261075

http://www.naturalnews.com/037693_nature_deficiency_mental_health_benefits.html#

http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/nature-therapy-ecotherapy

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