Your best-selling book The Year of Magical Thinking chronicles your grief
following the loss of your husband, John. What surprised you most about
I did not expect the degree of derangement-both physiological and mental. An
example of the latter: Two weeks after John died, when I filled out a hospital
form for the autopsy report, I gave not my own address but that of an apartment
in which we had lived for the first four or five months of our marriage, in
Many health care researchers and practitioners say that ecotherapy (also known as green therapy, nature therapy, and earth-centered therapy) -- a term coined by pastoral counselor Howard Clinebell in his 1996 book of the same name -- can have regenerative powers, improving mood and easing anxiety, stress, and depression.
But that’s not all. Health care providers are also giving their patients “nature prescriptions” to help treat a variety of medical conditions, from post-cancer fatigue to obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), and diabetes.
Scientists have long known that sunlight can ease depression, especially seasonal affective disorder (SAD). New research is expanding those findings. A 2007 study from the University of Essex in the U.K., for example, found that a walk in the country reduces depression in 71% of participants. The researchers found that as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation.
The growing interest in ecotherapy has even given rise to academic programs, such as one begun at John F. Kennedy University, which offers a graduate-level certificate in ecotherapy, an umbrella term that includes horticultural therapy, animal-assisted therapy, time stress management, and managing “eco-anxiety.”
John F. Kennedy University ecotherapy professor Craig Chalquist, PhD, co-author of Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, has acknowledged that ecotherapeutic methods “do not represent a cure for the woes of industrial civilization, nor can they be judged by expectations more appropriate to a body of knowledge and practice examined by many years of research.” In other words, research thus far has not proven that spending time in nature -- while admittedly part of a healthy lifestyle -- can prevent, treat, or cure any particular condition.
Still, initial indications and a growing body of research offer a “hopeful picture” of the effectiveness of ecotherapeutic practices, Chalquist says.