Decades of research has shown that spending time outdoors is excellent for your mind, body, and soul. The effect is so beneficial that ecotherapy - what clinician Howard Clinebell described as “healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the earth” - is gaining popularity as an effective mode of therapy. Ecotherapy is based on the premise that humans are a part of nature and are profoundly affected by spending time in it. Being immersed in the great outdoors makes us realize that there are things bigger than ourselves and our worries. It’s not only the sight of beautiful scenery that makes us feel better: our other senses are engaged in the therapeutic experience as well. The sound of natural noises like flowing water and the scent of natural fragrances like flowers and rain-misted foliage do wonders to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
You don’t have to schedule a session with a certified ecotherapist to reap the benefits of ecotherapy. Now that it’s cooling down in Austin, there is no limit to the possibilities for outdoor exploration. Here’s a list of good-for-the-soul things you can do with your student this fall:
- Get into the spirit of the season by going to a pumpkin patch and picking out your own bulbous fruit. Nomad Ranch offers an abundance of pumpkins as well as sweeping pastoral views of the countryside. Barton Hill Farms pumpkin patch is voted the most scenic pumpkin patch in Texas with its proximity to the Colorado River and fields of flowers, pumpkins, and farm animals.
- Hike! The beautiful Violet Crown trail offers a bit of a challenge for even the seasoned hiker. The Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve takes hikers on a gorgeous stroll past a waterfall and an overlook of the basin. A lesser-known gem in South Austin is the Sunset Valley Nature Area, which leads hikers on a serene journey through quiet and undisturbed forest.
- Take it easy at a park. Other than the famed Zilker park, Austin is home to many gorgeous green areas, such as Onion Creek Metropolitan Park. Described as “flat, woody and pond-filled” on its website, it seems like a perfect place to go for some ecotherapy. If you’re looking for some quiet time in nature with the addition of peacocks, look no further than Mayfield park!
- Take time to smell the flowers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. View the spectacular array of native plants and flowers and the animals that love them, such as hummingbirds.
These ecotherapy approaches won’t remedy all your worries, but they are wonderful ways to spend your day and lift your spirits. Get out there, Chaps, and stay healthy!
-MSSW Intern Kirsten Dalquist