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Depressed? Ecotherapists Say, "Go Take a Hike!"

Depressed? Ecotherapists Say, "Go Take a Hike!"

Although some depressed people think they should see a psychotherapist or get meds prescribed (or both), psychologists from the burgeoning field of eco-therapy have a simpler prescription: go outside and mingle with nature.

We humans, they argue, evolved to interact with nature and the outdoors, but beginning with the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago, we've largely become alienated from that world. Now that more than half of the world's population lives in cities, and those lives are increasingly taken over by computers and BlackBerrys (or iPhones), some people don't go outside at all except to travel from their homes to their offices. In fact, eco-therapists say that when their patients' begin writing in a nature journal to record how much time they spent outside, their records are pretty pathetic: most people spent less than 15 to 30 minutes walking to and from their cars!

I went on a long weekend in Yosemite recently, and although I'm not the type who loves not bathing for four days — it was wonderful not to get one email or phone call. Instead, I slept soundly from hiking so much and woke up looking at mountains, trees, and woodland creatures. We don't all need to go camping to cure the blues, though. Researchers have found that simply taking a walk outside every day could have the same effect as an antidepressant in treating moderate depression. I believe it.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Pistil Pistil 8 years
I think everyone needs to calm down and take a hike.
juicebox07 juicebox07 8 years
I have found that being outdoors boosts my mood.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 8 years
lilkimbo and Chrstne — Eco-therapists aren't saying the great outdoors will help treat severe depression, the kind that leads certain people to feel suicidal. They claim it can help mild to moderate depression, and that it's worth giving a try before one gets medicated.
Chrstne Chrstne 8 years
While it works for some people, others needs more than just some exercise, friends, and being outdoors. I would know. No amount of cheerleading/working out/etc ever made me less depressed. As for taking a hike or a walk in the park? No friggen way. When it comes down to it, I haven't met many people who will suddenly feel less depressed because they walk 30 minutes a day. It may seem to improve your mood for the time being, but at the're back to normal. It's important to be healthy and do "healthy things", but exercise, eating right, sunshine, etc is not the cure-all for everything on this planet. If it works for you, great. I just have a hard time believing that when you want to die (if you get that depressed) a hike is going to change that feeling.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
This is all well and good for some people, but for others, it just doesn't work. And I think the tone of part of this article (and others like this) only serves to make people with severe depression feel worse because they can't just feel better by spending more time outside. It's great that it worked for you, though, earth!
earthgoddess earthgoddess 8 years
I am a firm believer in this - I spend almost every weekend outdoors backpacking, mountaineering, hiking, canoeing or nature journaling. If I am indoors for too long, I get crazy cabin fever and just have to get outside. Mountain climbing and backpacking have improved my life in so many ways, boosting my self-esteem, confidence, physical strength, mental clarity, and emotional healing. Being in nature has helped ease my anxiety and depression as well as relieve stress, and helped me discover my true passions and purpose.
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