Nature therapy, or ecotherapy, is a recently established form of mental health care which encourages those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other conditions to spend time outdoors. A 2007 study found that, out of 108 people, a whopping 71% felt less depressed after taking a walk in the country. Another study, published in 2010 in Japan, found that people who spent more time outside in the forest, exposed specifically to the sights and sounds of nature, had lower levels of cortisol, lower pulse rates, and lower blood pressure.
The immensely positive effects of getting back to nature are featured — and beautifully captured — in the January issue of National Geographic magazine. Its story, "This Is Your Brain on Nature," depicts the diverse and unique ways people find solace in nature amid their fast-paced, modern lifestyles. Children scramble through snowy forests; lone hikers take a break to enjoy the view, and some carve out tiny oases of greenery above bustling cities. However the people in these photos find themselves in nature, the stress-relieving effects are clear. Let the photos be an important reminder for the rest of us to give ecotherapy a try.