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Ecotherapy , A Greener Way To Beat The Blues

Aug 18, 2007
Taking a walk in the country and getting closer to nature can lower depression, ease tension and increase self esteem according to the results of a recent study commissioned by the UK mental health charity Mind and conducted by Essex University. The study compared a half hour country walk with a walk through an indoor shopping centre and the results were strikingly different between the two. After a walk in the country, 71% found that their depression eased whereas 22% reported that they felt more depressed and tense after their walk through an indoor shopping centre.

People suffering from depression often suffer from low self esteem and again the results showed that there was a beneficial effect to be had by indulging in greener exercise as 90% of the participants felt they had more self esteem after their country walk compared to 44% who felt they had lower self esteem after the shopping centre walk. These figures would appear to reflect the value of adopting an all round greener approach to mental health problems in general.

If you are suffering with depression and you live in the UK then the chances are you will be prescribed some form of antidepressant by your doctor, not necessarily because the doctor believes they are the best option but because there is often little in the way of an alternative. According to Minds website, more than 31 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants in the UK in 2006, representing a rise of 6% on the 2005 figures. So, perhaps drugs alone are simply not enough.

Mind is now calling for Ecotherapy to be recognised as a valid treatment for mental health problems as well as medication. In other countries in Europe, it isnt unusual to be prescribed treatment on a care farm for mental health problems, however, here in the UK there are only a handful of care farms and none of them cater specifically for mental health.

In their report, Ecotherapy: the green agenda for mental health, Mind make several recommendations including that people suffering from mental distress should be offered green exercise as an option, that institutions should provide more access to green space, that the beneficial effects of green exercise should be promoted by health campaigns and even that town planners and architects should take green space into consideration when drawing up their designs.

Unfortunately, people living in concrete jungles in inner cities without gardens or nearby parks may not be able to experience nature or take a country walk very often and many will also have stressful or demanding jobs to deal with. The indications are that a lack of access to green space could have a negative impact on mental health and stress levels in general.

Mental health problems can affect each and any one of us at any time of our lives no matter who we are, and the numbers are steadily increasing. Perhaps if we all had access to green space or took the opportunity to regularly experience nature then the number of people requiring prescription drugs might be reduced.

There are also many people who may not realise that they are suffering from some form of depression so recognising the onset of symptoms and taking appropriate action is essential as left unchecked, depression can continue for months or possibly years leading at best to an overall reduction in quality of life and at worst to suicidal tendencies or even death.

How to recognise signs of depression

Feeling tired a lot of the time
Experiencing low moods and sadness
Unable to get to sleep or perhaps sleeping too much
Feeling pessimistic about life
Having irrational or frightening thoughts
Thinking about death or suicide
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Loss of pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
Uninterested in sex
Avoiding social situations and social contact
Changes in appetite and associated weight loss or weight gain
Emotional outbursts for no apparent reason

It also important to remember that we can all experience some of these symptoms without being depressed but if the symptoms have lasted for more than a couple of weeks and are affecting your ability to carry out your normal routines on a daily basis then the chances are you are you need some form of help and should talk to your doctor or health care professional.


Many of us today have busy lifestyles and believe that we have little or no time to relax but if more of us spend even a little time on a regular basis getting closer to nature, whether that be by getting out and about in the fresh air, doing some gardening, or walking round a nearby park, then we would be better able to unwind and ease up on the stress and maybe even prevent some mental health problems from arising in the first place.
About the Author
Simon Jones is an expert in depression and related disorders. For more information about self help for depression please come and visit our site http://www.fightingdepression.co.uk
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