Ecotherapy aims to improve your health through engaging in outdoor activities in nature. This could be any number of things, including a walk to the park, growing plants, fruits or vegetables, or even having a little cactus on your windowsill.
Watering and taking care of something that is alive and that you are responsible for can give you a sense of structure or routine. In fact, growing and nourishing a living thing can provide happiness and satisfaction, or, at the very least, you benefit from the clean air they emit! It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task, sometimes just fresh herbs that are sold in supermarkets or an aloe vera plant are handy to have around the house for if you want to add flavour to your meals or moisturise your skin. There are sometimes opportunities to join gardening clubs, volunteer at allotments or in community spaces, participate in organised hikes and walks, or volunteer at rural or inner-city farms. If it’s something that interests you, it’s worth asking a trusted adult if they can help you find out more.
The Centre has recently started a Gardening Club for staff. Catriona White is part of the club and discusses how even taking ten minutes a day to water and care for the plants helps her mental health and wellbeing:
What young people have told us:
'It causes your brain to focus on something more productive and the fresh air clears the mind from things that are stuck and unhelpful.'
'Definitely try it, you will learn new things and potentially grow some food too!'
'Personally, before trying ecotherapy (I do it in the form of having indoor plants all over my bedroom windowsill), I felt very useless and was constantly thinking about what could happen in the future. Ecotherapy granted me those five minutes everyday to focus on one task and to calm myself down. The plants also force me to open my window every morning so that they can get fresh air - meaning my room is aired and a cleaner space to live in which hugely benefits my sleep.'
'I went out gardening on our family allotment every day over a week. When returning there were definitely changes in my mood and I was much happier.'
'Growing something is a very natural thing. Realising you can look after and grow a plant can help you feel independent. Recognising that you can always look after yourself and grow your own food no matter what situation you're in is very empowering.'
There isn’t much academic research in the area of self-care for young people who are living with mental health issues. We are trying to find out more about what works for different people so we can better advise other young people what to try.
If you’ve tried this activity when you were struggling in relation to your mental health, please let us know if it helped you and how by clicking on the ‘Did this activity help you’ button.