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The mental and physical health benefits of ecotherapy
There are countless studies that prove ecotherapy (often referred to as nature therapy) is beneficial for your physical and mental health.
- What was once considered a simple practice and ideology about the benefits of nature has been proven in multiple studies to positively impact our physical and mental health.
- Some of the benefits of spending time in nature can be: a boost in killer-cells that fight off viruses, an ability to maintain focus and improvement in mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.
- To explain the all-encompassing benefits of nature, the Japanese have coined the term "shinrin yoku", which translates to "forest bathing."
Ecotherapy (also referred to as nature therapy) has been proven to be effective and is used in various practices and cultures around the world—and yet, it is still one of the most under-appreciated forms of therapy.
For a period of time, nature therapy was considered a simple practice for those who believe that we are connected to and impacted by the natural environments around us. However, there is now more research to support this ideology.
How nature therapy works to better your physical and mental health
A simple walk in the forest can have more of a positive impact on your health than you may realize.
The benefits of nature have been studied for decades. In fact, in 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries coined the term "shinrin yoku", which means "forest bathing."
Nature increases activity in natural killer cells that fight off viruses.
While we stroll around the forest, breathing in the fresh air, airborne chemicals like phytoncides (a chemical many plants give off to fight disease) are also entering our system. When this happens, the human body responds by increasing the number of natural killer blood cells (a type of white blood cell) which attack virus-infected cells.
In one 2009 study, participants spent 3 days/2 nights in a forested area. Their blood and urine were sampled before, during, and after the trip. Natural killer cell activity measured significantly higher during the days spent in the forest and the effect lasted up to 30 days after the trip.
This suggests that a few days in nature every month could potentially allow your natural killer cell activity to maintain at a higher functioning level, protecting you better.
Spending time in nature has numerous mental health benefits.
This groundbreaking research analysis of 10 UK studies involving over 1200 participants considered all the ways time in nature (known as green exercise) can improve a person's mental health and wellbeing.
The results of this analysis proved that both men and women have similar self-esteem improvements after experiencing time spent in nature, and the boost in mood particularly impacted men. The analysis showed the greatest improvements in mental health with the participants who were struggling with a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.
A more recent study looked at the relationship between psychological responses and forest environments. Using the Profile of Mood States questionnaire, this research found that time spent in nature significantly decreased the scores for anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, and fatigue.
A walk in nature is more beneficial than a walk in the city.
Results of a 2008 study compared the restorative effects of natural versus urban environments, with natural environments proving vastly more beneficial. Nature, which is filled with intriguing stimuli, is able to modestly grab your attention in a way that requires no effort or additional actions. Urban areas can be filled with stimulation that captures your attention and requires additional directed actions (for example, stopping at a crosswalk).
This is why a walk in nature is much more beneficial for our minds than a walk in an urban setting—our minds are able to "switch off," giving time for restorative rest.
Nature related activities may be of use in future ADHD therapies.
Directed Attention Fatigue (DAF) is something you may be struggling with without even realizing it. It's a very common neuro-psychological phenomenon that results in the overuse of the brain's attention mechanisms. These mechanisms typically work for us to help us cope with distraction while maintaining on a specific task, but when we overuse that function, it becomes weaker and our ability to focus on task lessens.
Along with that, the part of the brain affected by attention fatigue (the right frontal cortex) is also involved in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This study shows that children diagnosed with ADHD who spent time in natural outdoor environments show a reduction in ADHD symptoms. This is promising for the field of ADHD research, as nature therapy could potentially be used as part of an all-encompassing treatment plan.
Various therapies have been incorporating nature-related benefits for years, including:
- animal-assisted therapy
- horticultural therapy
- physical exercise in nature
- conservation therapy
- nature therapy
- Nature-deficit disorder: why nature is important to children - Big Think ›
- Scottish doctors can now prescribe nature to their patients - Big Think ›
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.
- The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
- Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
- The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Seriously sustainable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDIzNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjM4NTMzMX0.BCEfYnn6C3z1zUHIS38xOWjXktgamNBi5iyqklSMYK8/img.png?width=980" id="ea524" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="50533380eeb18eb5833b6b6aa3abec38" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>Solar Foods makes Solein by extracting CO₂ from air using <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90356326/we-have-the-tech-to-suck-co2-from-the-air-but-can-it-suck-enough-to-make-a-difference" target="_blank">carbon-capture technology</a>, and then combines it with water, nutrients and vitamins, using 100 percent renewable solar energy from partner <a href="https://www.fortum.com" target="_blank">Fortum</a> to promote a natural fermentation process similar to the one that produces yeast and lactic acid bacteria.</p><p>When the company claims its single-celled protein is "free from agricultural limitations," they're not kidding. Being produced indoors means Solar Foods is not dependent on arable land, water (i.e., rain), or favorable weather.</p><p>The company is already working with the European Space Agency to develop foods for off-planet production and consumption. (The idea for Solein actually began at NASA.) They also see potential in bringing protein production to areas whose climate or ground conditions make conventional agriculture impossible.</p><p>And let's not forget all those <a href="https://www.bk.com/menu-item/impossible-whopper" target="_blank">beef-free burgers</a> based on pea and soy proteins currently gaining popularity. The environmental challenge of scaling up the supply of those plants to meet their high demand may provide an opening for the completely renewable Solein — the company could provide companies that produce animal-free "meats," such as <a href="https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/" target="_blank">Beyond Meat</a> and <a href="https://impossiblefoods.com" target="_blank">Impossible Foods</a>, a way to further reduce their environmental impact.</p>
The larger promise<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDI0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjU4MTg2OX0.7dZZYT5WEV_EupBuLVFwHynarTiz8RYR9aJtC6Ts2C4/img.jpg?width=980" id="3415d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e6eebe06d795f844752f9e9d30040d7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>The impact of the beef — and for that matter, poultry, pork, and fish — industries on our planet is widely recognized as one of the main drivers behind climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and antibiotic-resistant illness. From the cutting down of rainforests for cattle-grazing land, to runoff from factory farming of livestock and plants, to the disruption of the marine food chain, to the overuse of antibiotics in food animals, it's been disastrous.</p><p>The advent of a promising source of protein derived from two of the most renewable things we have, CO₂ and sunlight, <a href="https://solarfoods.fi/environmental-impact/" target="_blank">gets us out of the planet-destruction business</a> at the same time as it offers the promise of a stable, long-term solution to one of the world's most fundamental nutritional needs.</p>
Solar Foods' timetable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MTEzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5OTU1OTMwMn0.wnXh56iO_77x2XKV2uIPf78BKw4AJLUpmiyq_JBVGvo/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=172%2C146%2C62%2C135&height=700" id="0297c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="125c9a98ec818f5c241fa28ef1423e67" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Lubsan / Shutterstock / Big Think<p>While company plans are always moderated by unforeseen events — including the availability of sufficient funding — Solar Foods plans a global commercial rollout for Solein in 2021 and to be producing two million meals annually, with a revenue of $800 million to $1.2 billion by 2023. By 2050, they hope to be providing sustenance to 9 billion people as part of a $500 billion protein market.</p><p>The project began in 2018, and this year, they anticipate achieving three things: Launching Solein (check), beginning the approval process certifying its safety as a Novel Food in the EU, and publishing plans for a 1,000-metric ton-per-year factory capable of producing 500 million meals annually.</p>
The protein powder Solein. Image source: SOLAR FOODS
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