Bush & forest therapy: Healing in nature

Many of us experience some form of mental health challenge at some point in life, it is just part of being human. Good mental health is something we can all support and encourage.

One day my world came crashing down. I felt overwhelmed by everything and could not understand what was happening. My life had been so great but at the time, I felt nothing but despair. Eventually I was diagnosed with deep depression. I didn’t know any way out and was in so much pain. I know people who have lived with depression, but until you have experienced the black dog for yourself you will never know or truly understand the absolute darkness that surrounds you or sickening pain that enters your heart.

One day I dragged myself out of bed and went for a walk by myself in the bush. I returned many hours later feeling more alive and refreshed than I have ever felt. So the next day I did it again, and again, and again. That’s when I started building this website and hiking became my passion. You can read my story here.

If you or someone you know is struggling, spending time in nature can really help. Get out for a walk and consider giving bush or forest therapy a go.

What is forest therapy?

Forest therapy, also known as “forest bathing” or Shinrin-yoku, is a practice that originated in Japan in the 1980s. It involves spending time in a forest or other natural environment to improve physical and mental health.

The practice involves slowing down and using your senses to connect with nature. This can include things like taking in the forest atmosphere, listening to the sounds of birds and other wildlife, feeling the texture of the soil or tree bark, and breathing in the natural scents.

Research has shown that spending time in nature can have numerous health benefits, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, improving mood, and boosting immune function. Forest therapy is increasingly being recognized as a legitimate form of alternative medicine and is often used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments.

What is bush therapy?

Bush therapy, also known as wilderness therapy, is a type of therapy that involves spending time in nature as a way to promote personal growth and healing. This type of therapy typically involves a small group of people working with one or more trained therapists in a natural outdoor setting such as a forest, desert, or mountain range.

The goal of bush therapy is to provide individuals with a safe and supportive environment to explore their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors while engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and team-building exercises. The natural setting and physical activity are thought to facilitate the therapeutic process by reducing stress, improving mood, and increasing self-awareness.

Bush therapy can be particularly helpful for people struggling with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and addiction, as well as those who feel disconnected from nature or who are seeking personal growth and self-discovery.

What is wilderness therapy?

Wilderness therapy is a form of experiential therapy that involves taking individuals into the wilderness or natural environment to promote personal growth, self-discovery, and healing. It is an immersive and holistic approach to therapy that typically involves a combination of outdoor activities, group therapy sessions, and individual counseling.

In wilderness therapy, individuals are often challenged to face their fears, overcome obstacles, and develop new skills, such as survival techniques and outdoor living skills. Participants are also encouraged to reflect on their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in a natural and serene environment, away from the distractions of daily life.

Wilderness therapy is often used to treat a wide range of mental health and behavioral issues, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and trauma. It can also be helpful for individuals who are struggling with personal challenges, such as low self-esteem, poor communication skills, or a lack of direction in life.

Overall, wilderness therapy can provide a unique and transformative experience that can help individuals gain a greater sense of self-awareness, resilience, and personal growth.

What is bush adventure therapy?

Bush Adventure Therapy is a form of therapeutic intervention that combines the therapeutic process with adventure-based activities in a wilderness setting. Bush Adventure Therapy is designed to support individuals, often youth or young adults, who are experiencing a range of emotional, behavioral, or psychological issues.

The aim of Bush Adventure Therapy is to create an environment where individuals can explore and develop their emotional and interpersonal skills through adventure activities such as rock climbing, hiking, camping, canoeing, and other challenging outdoor activities. The wilderness setting provides a unique context that can foster personal growth, challenge individuals to face fears, and provide opportunities for problem-solving, team building, and goal-setting.

Bush Adventure Therapy programs are typically facilitated by qualified therapists or outdoor leaders who have experience working with individuals in the wilderness. These facilitators are trained to provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can explore their issues and develop the skills necessary for personal growth and development.

Research has shown that Bush Adventure Therapy can be effective for a range of issues, including substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems in youth. BAT is often used in conjunction with other therapeutic interventions, such as individual and group therapy, to support the overall healing and growth process.

So, spend more time in nature

Especially for those of us struggling with depression or anxiety, nature is a great teacher, showing the cycle of life and hope – light follows darkness, the sunshine follows rain, and spring follows winter. The more time you spend in nature, the more balanced you will feel. Nature provides a great stress relief by enabling you to remove yourself – mind and body – from the things that cause you stress in the first place.

A lack of exposure to natural surrounds, or ‘nature deprivation’, is seen as a cause behind the marked increase of many modern ills, including depression symptoms, anxiety attacks and behavioural problems in children. According to many researchers, it’s no coincidence that as disconnection from nature have grown dramatically, so have mental disorders such as depression. In fact, city dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders when compared to people living closer to nature. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, recognised this when he coined the phrase: “Nature cures—not the physician.”

I could not agree more.

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