Research generously and continuously supports ecotherapy as a key benefit to mental health.
In fact, just the suggestion of nature seems to improve human mental health.
A study carried out by Mind found that 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outdoors. They noted a change from depressed, stressed and anxious, to calm and balanced.
Numerous other studies have supported the mental health benefits of the great outdoors, especially when connected to exercise, such as hiking, cycling and running.
Here’s what you should know about how hiking and the great outdoors improves wellness.
The mental health benefits of the great outdoors
Natural environments have been found to have restorative elements, which can ultimately give your mental health a boost.
The following mental health benefits give you ample reason to get out and get active. Your mind and body will benefit.
- Boost your mood. The natural light and fresh air are one of the best ways that you can naturally boost your mood. If you’ve been down, nature provides an ideal way to turn your day around.
- Reduce stress. Just being outside can help you reduce any stress and anxiety you’re experiencing. Researchers in both the Netherlands and Japan have found that just 20 to 30 minutes a day in nature can help to reduce your cortisol levels. This will help you reduce your stress and feel better.
- Lower your risk of depression. A study conducted at Stanford highlighted that those who spent more time in nature had less neural activity in the part of their brain that is associated with depression. One way to fight depression is to immerse yourself in the world outside.
- Improve sensory perception. Being outside opens up your senses and allows you to enhance your sensory perception. You take in the sights, smells, sounds, feels, and more that nature provides.
- It helps you sleep better. Regular exercise in the great outdoors helps to harmonise your circadian rhythm and reduces levels of stress hormones, in turn promoting a better regenerative night’s sleep.
Ecotherapy in South Africa
Ecotherapy, also known as nature or green therapy, comes from the belief that people and their psyches are not separate from their environment.
As such, connection with the Earth is a core part of ecotherapy. It recognizes the mental health benefits of the great outdoors and seeks to connect its participants with them.
South Africa has numerous options for those seeking to experience the mental and physical benefits nature provides.
Believe it or not, people travel from around the world to experience hiking and trekking in South Africa.
Here are some top hikes to experience during a stay in South Africa. You’ll see firsthand how hiking improves wellness.
- Table Mountain – Cape Town
- The Rhebok Trail – Golden Gate Highlands National Park
- The Cederberg Cracks – Cederberg Wilderness Area
- De Hoop Whale Trail – De Hoop Nature Reserve
- The Sentinel Peak Hiking Trail – Drakensberg
Kruger National Park
There’s no shortage of activities in South Africa and Kruger National Park which is located just 17kms from White River Manor is one of the best destinations to experience activities in the great outdoors.
Located in northeastern South Africa, Kruger is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. While you may think it’s reserved purely for safaris and game drives, there are also plenty of ways you can experience the park whilst staying active.
Here are some ideas.
- Hiking – Explore the park with a guided hike that allows you to see off-the-beaten-path destinations. It’s an exhilarating way to see parts of South Africa that others don’t venture into.
- 4×4 tours – This is the most common way to see Kruger and the way most tourists will opt to experience it. Research tells us that even being out in nature in a 4×4 can provide your mind with an opportunity to reset and relax.
- Mountain biking – This is a newer activity that the park offers. For anyone looking to improve their physical and mental health, you can mix your love for cycling with your love for animals and nature.
- Walking safaris – This is a fresh take on the 4×4 tour concept. Not everyone wants to see nature from the inside of a Jeep. Let nature take the lead. This option allows you to minimise your environmental impact and immerse yourself in the experience.
Cycling is renowned for its positive benefits to mental health and just like hiking, cycling in South Africa provides amazing scenery as well as a way to see the country.
There are some excellent cycling routes for beginners and pros along the banks of the White River and throughout the region of Mpumalanga, from easy flat 3km trails to pro mountain bike trails.
Nature looks after you
With just 20 to 30 minutes spent in nature each day, ecotherapy will help towards improving your mental health and wellness.
There’s no excuse NOT to get outside and get active. And South Africa boasts a huge range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling, and walking safaris.
Contact us today if you’d like a confidential and free chat with one of our highly-trained professionals.