It can be hard to get through a television show without seeing an ad from a pharmacology company showcasing the latest drug. American culture likes a quick fix and our default mentality can make up run for the medication cabinet for all of our ailments, no matter how small. Bombarded with these messages, we forget that nature is also good medicine. Ecotherapy is the idea of connecting to nature to aid our human well being. Research tells us and we intuitively know of the healing properties of nature and these concepts are catching on….for example, “forest bathing” is now a thing.
Personally, I have recently been reminded of nature’s promise in promoting peace of mind. Facing a move and other major life changes, making a habit to ride my bike along Venice and Santa Monica beach fronts, walking at sunset along Ocean’s shore, and soaking in the sun on the sand has brought me out of my head and into a felt sense that the present turbulence is a moment in time. Nature reminds us, the world is larger than our present troubles.
At times I have groaned at the extra efforts of separating the recycling materials and disposing them in the two separate trash cans. But I do it out of love, how can I not? I was struck with the idea that I should let nature love me back, especially in this time of life transitions and stressful changes. Life transitions can make nature more important and if we can carve out a space in nature, it can have a grounding effect and be a source of stability. Living in California, there are opportunities abound to do this.
With destruction also comes creation, finding a few quiet, introspective moments in nature can invite spontaneous insight into how creation of new will manifest in your life. I found myself naturally connecting to my will to live my best life and envision the possibilities that lay ahead. This also came with mining the gold in learning from past mistakes, giving me an energy to help bear life's storms with grace and gratitude. What story do I want to tell? Who am I now and what are my values? I found myself having more self compassion and more of a capacity to tolerate staring at the sun of my fears. Injecting some calm only nature can bring help us filter the distractions and minutiae of life. Nature is a gift, like therapy, it can help process the upheaval that comes with change and give us renewed vitality.
Mary Starks, MA, is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor #5828, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT #50732. Mary specializes in child and family counseling and has extensive training in the field of infant mental health.