Skip the beer, skip the pills; if you’re feeling stressed, get outside.
While “take a walk, bro” might sound kind of cheesy, it is solid advice. Fresh air has an almost therapeutic effect on humans. In fact, it has been studied and tested quite a few times over the past few decades. Humans have an innate connection to nature, and while city life and life in general may overwhelm us, going back to our evolutionary roots helps us re-centre. This is called ecotherapy.
Ecotherapy is a pretty broad term, equally so to therapy in general. It’s also known as green exercise, green care, green therapy, and horticultural therapy. There are tons of different forms of treatment, but they all follow the general guideline of immersing yourself and strengthening your connection to the natural world. Treatment methods vary in intensity, with examples such as tending to a garden, walking a nature trail, or wandering into a forest and exploring the wilderness.
“It is clear [ecosystems] also provide a health service arising from direct activities in contact with nature,” Jo Barton and Jules Pretty wrote in their study on green exercise. “Recognition of the potential contribution of natural ecosystems to human population health may contribute to addressing problems associated with inactivity, obesity, mental ill-health, and other chronic diseases. Many of these urgent health challenges are also connected to sedentary and indoor lifestyles.”
Mind.org.uk, a site devoted to mental health, has a detailed explanation of ecotherapy and what benefits it has. According to the website, ecotherapy is more or less an all-around fix to whatever might be ailing someone mentally. Getting that exposure to nature can reduce depression, anger, feelings of anxiety and stress, improve your mood and self-esteem, and increase emotional resilience. On top of that, getting out there gets people active. Going for a hike, walk, or bike ride are all great ways to boost energy levels and overall fitness.
While students may not have the opportunity to go out and work on a farm like Mind may suggest (there is one in Mono, however), Brantford has tons of opportunities to get that fresh air our genes crave. Just by the riverfront, tucked behind the skate park and casino, there is a trail that stretches from the northwestern corner of the city limits of Brantford to the southeastern boundary. In addition, there’s a conservation area across the river that is roughly an 11 minute drive from the Research and Academic Centre on Dalhousie Street. Take a break from the hectic schedule and get some fresh air.