Nature Therapy is like a dream relationship – loving, respectful and equal. It’s not just about spending lots of time together. It’s about what your partner gives you, and what you can give your partner in return. When one half of the partnership begins to change for the worse, you work together to fix it. Otherwise, the unthinkable happens – the end of something really magical.
The climate emergency shows our relationship with nature is broken, but breaking up with our planet isn’t an option. To fix it we need a new, more connected relationship that recognizes we are part of nature.
This is where nature therapy and nature connectedness come in. Nature can make us feel great and improve our mental health. But what does nature therapy actually look like in everyday life? And how can we, as individuals, give back to nature?
12 Instagram and Nature Therapy influencers tell us what nature therapy looks like to them and what they do for nature.
Mental Health Blogger @mrstevenwj
Nature therapy to me is relaxation. It is mindfulness in its simplest form. When I’m outside hiking, running or just walking the dog it is easier for me to focus on what’s happening in the moment, rather than the constant hum of my overthinking mind. Nature gives me perspective. It makes me realize how small my problems are in the grand scheme of things and how lucky I am to be part of our planet. We’ve been lucky enough to be born on this crazy lump of rock and you only have one life to take it all in. In return I give nature my appreciation and respect. I’m a bit of a nerd so I think about how diverse the plant life is, how complicated biology is or how different animals evolved. Seeing how amazing nature is and how important it is to our mental health, it makes it vital that we try to save it.
Fat Girls Hiking Ambassador @fat_hikingbae
Nature Therapy looks like me getting on my AllTrails app and finding a trail that looks challenging in distance and incline. I pack the trunk of my car with my daypack, boots, hiking poles, and trail-worthy snacks. Hiking is this magical thing that allows me to see myself, and be with myself. Nature is a magical healer that gives me space to be happy, be sad, be silly, be challenged, to just be free. In return, I give nature my respect.
MSc. in environmental strategy & operations manager at @Doseofnature & @Meg_charl
To me, nature therapy is spending time in local woodlands and green spaces. I try and go at least once a week, if not more, and I tend to go with my Mum or a friend. I will walk for over an hour and use the time to slow down. I consciously slow down by doing small things like noticing the colours around me, looking up at the sky, and listening to the sounds around me. Although, some days nature therapy just looks like taking a minute or so to look up at the sky or to smell some flowers. It depends on where I am, whether I’m close to a green space or not, as well as how I am feeling.
Nature gives me stress relief, a sense of belonging and reassurance. It is a constant that I can rely on to support my mental health. Nature is also a teacher for me; the cycles of life and death, the seasons, the flow and acceptance. I feel like I can just be myself in nature with no expectations or judgement.
What do I give nature in return? I give nature my commitment to protect it and to help others connect with it. By training to be a forest guide, I have learnt to work with nature collaboratively so that both humans and nature can benefit without exploitation, a type of relationship that is not often seen today.
Founder of @FatGirlsHiking
The best self-care tool I know of is being in nature. I find immense joy and healing from cultural oppression while outdoors. Nature gives me a child-like curiosity for the world around me. I often take photos of plants to look up in my nature books after a hike. Nature gives me calm, quiet, solace and perspective. When I stand next to an old tree, I feel like a small speck in the universe. To feel insignificant next to the bigness I see in the outdoors offers me perspective on any issues, problems or questions I’m struggling with. If I’m ruminating on something and can’t quiet the loop of negativity, nature gives me a place to work through what I’m struggling with the sound of my boots on the trail, the wind and call of birds to remind me that my problems are not as big as they seem to be in my head. I don’t know what I could possibly give to nature in return, except respect and awe. When I’m outdoors, I do my best to take care of the spaces I’m in by picking up trash and educating people about Leave No Trace.
Student leader and writer @philliplewis_
Nature therapy for me looks like turning my phone on airplane mode while I get to the trailhead and just be, before beginning a hike. It looks like walking through the forest and allowing the rhythms of the forest to flow in and through me. The centering stillness and the vastness of nature are two things that bring my soul to rest. It reminds me that I can be still and remember that there is something bigger than my world and the work of my hands. Nature gives to me a sense of presence, a presence that invites me into a wider story but also invites me to explore my own story. It gives me a sense of peace in the midst of chaos, and gives me a sense of home in a world that constantly makes me feel as if I’m in exile. I do my best to give my presence back to nature, to listen to ways in which it is asking and calling me to care for it. I give nature my ears and hands hoping that I can care for it as an extension of myself.
Botanical Alchemy @Allelementsapothecary
Nature Therapy comes in many forms for me. I believe in holistic health so taking a few drops of a homemade plant extract and then heading out for a redwood hike is a simultaneous use of both, internal and external, therapeutic benefits of nature. Each time I notice positive changes from herbal regiments it tops me off with drive and energy to speak about and create healing potions for others. I return the favour in any way I can. Planting, nurturing, and protecting my gardens. Defending the wilderness through a less impactful lifestyle.
Adventurer & Writer @BeardedOutdoors
Nature Therapy is the unbreakable bond between all living things, which we, as humans, can tap into for peace, healing, fun, laughter, tranquillity and so much more! But to gain therapy from nature one must first become aware that it is a two-way relationship. Nature allows me to survive. It gives me inspiration to move, write, travel and create. It clears my mind and gets rid of the nonsense that the modern world fills it with. Nature gives me the ability to escape back to a simpler time when sitting and doing absolutely nothing was sometimes everything you needed.
Is it enough to eat less meat? Recycle your waste? Buy less consumable fashion? Do we need to step our game up? We are vegans, we are considerate when buying plastics and don’t buy clothes unless we can justify why we need them. I myself feel that isn’t enough. I feel I should immerse myself more with the natural world we live in. Only then can it be a pure two-way relationship. If we, as a society, lived a life that was amongst the natural world we would begin to truly understand what we need to, and indeed can, offer to nature. Maybe by simply being a part of nature, nature will flourish. Maybe by being there I can help more.
Creative & Visual Storyteller @laurenlsutton
When living in Tasmania nature therapy to me was getting out of the city most weekends to escape to somewhere remote, usually either by the ocean or in the mountains. Now living in Canberra my house has a garden so my nature therapy is a little less extreme and involves watering my plants and watching them grow. There is something you get from being in nature that you don’t get anywhere else. That feeling of calmness, of being able to breathe fully, and having time to think without any distractions. I love learning about our natural world and now have a few books on native flora, birds, bees and of course, gardening. Learning more about bees has allowed me to feel like I am giving back to nature, learning to do the right thing by creating a bee-friendly garden to bring some balance back into my little pocket of nature.
Body Positive and Disability Advocate @cataliinaaa
Nature gives me peace. She gives me tranquility and adventure. She gives me air to breathe. Nature clears my mind when it becomes foggy with material anxieties. She grounds me when I am feeling unanchored. Most importantly, nature reminds me of the big picture. When I am at the ocean’s edge watching and listening to the waves crawl toward me, I remember just how small I am on this magnificent earth. I have never gone out into nature and not come back more energized and uplifted. I give very little to nature in comparison to what I receive from her but I still try my best to do good by her. I live on a plant-based diet to minimize the harm animal agriculture has on the environment. I also do that to make it clear that I respect all of the life on this earth, every single soul. We live in a world where we have taken nature for granted and we no longer know how to connect with it or to let it help us, but I acknowledge nature and I respect the land we live on.
Nature Therapy Guide @kelsea.andersonn
From transforming a lifelong battle with depression and anxiety to healing heartbreak from the loss of loved ones, nature has offered me medicine, teachings, and healing to work my way through my life’s biggest challenges. Nature gives me time and space to connect with myself. The distractions of the human world and my “to-do” list dissolve, as the natural world steps in encouraging me to tune inwards and connect with my thoughts, feelings, and desires.
Nature therapy for me is spending time in the woods or near the ocean, taking in nature’s atmosphere through an opening of the senses. The key is to slow down as I wander along a trail or find a place to sit, all the while staying in the role as the “observer” and simply noticing what unfolds around me.
I receive a great amount of peace from mother nature so I care a great deal about her and want to protect her. I have chosen to dedicate my life’s purpose to inspiring others to deepen their relationship with her, so they will also want to protect her. She gifts me peace, and I gift her protection.
Outdoor Adventure Photographer @Reggieandthevan
For me, nature therapy comes in many forms. It can be as simple as walking the dogs through the rainforest near our home, or weeks-long van trips on remote coastlines surfing. It can be hiking or a day out bouldering or climbing. It can also be just sitting, taking in my surroundings and reflecting on where I fit into the environment around me. Above all else, nature therapy is an opportunity to be mindful and present in every moment. Nature gives me many things. It gives me a place to reflect, a place to play, a place to get out of my comfort zone, face fears and teaches me lessons that I can take back to my day-to-day. Immersing myself in the outdoors offers me an opportunity to become more in-tune with my surroundings, to pay attention to tiny details around me and to quiet my breath and my busy mind enough to listen to the sounds of creeks running, waves crashing, birds calling and the wind. In return, I work as an outdoor adventure photographer and specialize in projects that have to do with ocean and coastal ecosystem conservation, sustainability and wildlife protection. I am an active member of Surfrider Foundation and also regularly contribute video and editing work to For the Wild. In my non-work life, I ensure to abide by Leave No Trace principles, I do my best to leave places better than I found them.
Body Love Coach & Creator of @RadicalBodyLove
Nature therapy looks like connection and energy. My most impactful nature experiences are when I allow myself to be completely in the moment, in my body, in nature. Whether it’s a forest or an ocean or just sitting in the grass at a park, I feel healing happen when I stop and connect with my surroundings and myself. I’ve been hiking in the middle of a forest and been brought to tears by the energy I felt and the connection to the earth in that moment. The same goes for any body of water – nature therapy has been a huge part of my recovery from an eating disorder and from a lifetime of body shame and oppression. Nature gives me freedom, healing energy, and permission to take up space. I find a freedom in nature that often doesn’t exist in the rest of my life. I can move as quickly or slowly as I like, taking my time to soak in the details of the environment and only going as far as I want. I don’t have to worry about other people’s timelines and needs; I get to practice radical self-care. The healing energy and life energy from the plants, animals, and air is bolstering – like taking extra vitamins and giving your body what it needs. I crave it when I’m away too long. And when I say ‘permission to take up space’ I mean that when I’m hiking or swimming or just hanging out in nature I feel so tiny in comparison to the world around me. That feeling of smallness among the trees or in the ocean or wherever is a gift. As a fat person I never get to feel small in my regular life – I’m constantly made to feel like I’m too big, too much, and yet not enough. In nature I’m given permission to take up space, to be as big as I want and know that it’s ok because there’s plenty of room and the trees don’t care what size my pants are. I bring nature my gratitude and love. I give it the gift of being seen and appreciated and honored, which ultimately is what we all want – right?
Written by Carrie Starbuck @thehappylands