How to Use Nature as Your Therapy

How to Use Nature as Your Therapy

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul…” —John Muir

The sun-kissed summer season is a special time in the Pacific Northwest. While we’re blessed with warm weather for much of the year, summer is when we can finally count on clear skies. The whirl of activity on the local beaches, at the campgrounds and on the waters of Puget Sound reminds us what a natural jewel this area is.

Do you remember the last time you hiked in the woods, relaxed by a waterfall or lake, or took a walk on a beach while waves splashed at your feet?

Did your mood improve or your stress felt reduced? That’s because those are among the health benefits of being in nature. In Japan, there’s even “forest therapy” that’s recommended as preventative medicine.

While you don’t need to wait for summer to get some forest therapy — or any kind of “nature therapy” — taking full advantage of the outdoors is the highlight of this time of year. Here are some tips on how to use nature as your therapy in your recovery journey.

Go for a walkabout: The research-based Japanese forest therapy is called shinrin-yoku, which stands for “taking in the forest atmosphere.” The idea is to visit nature for relaxed walks. This is a little different from hiking, when you’re more likely to maintain a brisk pace.

Make forest therapy part of your routine. Even a 20-minute walk at your local park can help clear your mind and get you centered. Turn off your phone so you can be in the present and immerse in a meditative state of mind.

Get away for the weekend: One of the restorative benefits of nature comes from the experience of being away — the ability to leave behind the hum and stress of everyday life. Something as simple as a “mini-vacation” at your nearest state or national park can help you get away from the 24/7 connectivity and replenish your spirit.

If you don’t enjoy “roughing it,” you may not need to camp out in a tent. Many campgrounds offer cabins, which come complete with creature comforts like beds and electricity — and you’re still smack in the middle of pristine forests. Just make sure to bring your hiking boots and hit the trails!

Give your green thumb a try: Gardening can be just as therapeutic as spending time in nature. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair, especially if you’re just starting out or live in an urban area — container gardening can bring just as much joy.

Growing your own herbs, such as parsley and chives, is simple and the bonus is that you can use them for cooking. Or plant some annuals for an uplifting pop of color —choose blooms like begonias and pansies, and you’ll get color through late fall.

If you love scouring garage sales or thrift shops for treasures, be on the lookout for creative containers. And if you worry about forgetting to water, try your hand at succulents (they also make great terrariums).

Get out on the water: Paddling on the water is the perfect summer activity not only for mental but also for physical health. Rent a kayak or paddleboat for a couple of hours and start exploring; the views from the water will surprise you! Feeling adventurous and up for learning something new? Try the newest popular hobby, stand-up paddling (SUP).

A few safety reminders as you’re getting ready to embrace the last of this gorgeous weather outdoors:

  • Don’t forget the sunscreen, even on an overcast day.
  • Make sure to drink plenty of water during outdoor activities.
  • If you’re planning to disconnect or will be unreachable for a while, tell a friend or family member about your plans.

Nature Therapy at Olalla Guest Lodge

Did you know that Olalla Recovery Centers integrates nature as part of a holistic approach to addiction recovery? As you walk through the trail at our inpatient center, Olalla Guest Lodge, blooming flowers, singing birds and roaming wildlife are all part of the nature experience. If you or a loved one is looking for a path to recovery, give us a call.