Nature Therapy and the Sustainable Development Goal 3 on mental health

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

eMindology blog series - Blog #4

Nature Therapists are serious contenders to help us reach the Sustainable Development Goal 3 on mental health. Here is how they can succeed.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

To clarify that statement, there is no competition whatsoever when it’s about helping people’s mental health and saving the Planet. Any contribution from anyone is more than welcome and more than needed! However, there is a race against time to create a sustainable change by 2030. But here we do have serious contenders: the Nature therapists to help us take care of our minds while taking care of the Planet. Here is how they can succeed.

1. By making Nature Therapy a front-runner in complementary therapy

The figure of the professional Nature therapist is recent, however, the concept of Nature therapy is not. Looking at the sea or wandering in a forest for the rural dwellers, looking by the window to escape, having a shower to relax, walking barefoot in the grass for the urban dwellers, those are some tiny examples of the way people instinctively turn to Nature to feel good.

Nature therapy has a variety of choices. It’s a canopy for a wider offer of Nature-based therapies as Nature includes the vegetal, the animal, the elemental, the mineral and many more other subdivisions. We recently witnessed the emergence of the Crystal therapy trend, the Blue Mind therapy, the Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and of the figures of the Eco therapists and Animal-Assisted therapists. That list is not exhaustive and the variety of speciality is actually growing.

Nature therapy can also answer to different needs. The Nature therapy navigates starts from the traditional healing and mental health support but can get involved in general entertainment and self-care. It can go way deeper into spiritual and existentialism: by approaching our relationship with Nature, we can also have a better understanding of our relationship with ourselves, with others, with Humankind as a whole and our place in the Universe.

Nature therapy is Universal and doesn’t leave anyone anything or any needs behind. With a diversity in discipline and a diversity in intensity, unlike Nature resources, the ways Nature and Nature therapists can be beneficial for people’s mind and people’s lives are endless and with no frontiers.

And starting from the space in our own houses, Nature therapists have a first wild card to accelerate their success: Technology.

2. By using Technology to bring Nature back at home

The restricted space of our private houses are not obstacles for Nature therapy to help us take care of our mind. Even if we don’t have a green plant, water is still running in our bathroom, the wind still enters our room when we open the windows, Earth is still in our fridge. Our private spaces are the perfect places to log in to Nature for our mental well-being and with Technology, Nature Therapists can give a boost to that connection.

From the traditional online sessions with Nature Therapists to the online Eco Therapy course, the Nature-themed guided meditations, Virtual and Augmented reality applications to raise awareness, Nature Therapy apps to support and track progress, gamification to educate while having fun...Technology displays powerful and versatile tools to make Nature both the subject and the vector of our mental well-being. By digitalising and making available their expertise online, Nature eTherapists can make a huge difference in people’s lives by giving them choices and empowering them with their knowledge and wisdom. Any time and anywhere in the World.

Getting people closer to Nature with Technology doesn’t mean “plasticizing” and replacing Nature to fit human needs. As an example, there is a growing interest in Animal-Assisted therapy because the benefit of the human-animal bond on people mental well-being has been recognised. So well, in fact, some companies are already working on Animal robots, even when it’s well known that an ersatz can’t outperform the original. Technology applied to Nature doesn’t imply to mindlessly harnessing Nature at all costs but rather involves keeping the integrity of Nature, Human and Animal dignity and bring their deep connections to a different space.

The Nature therapists have a strong asset with technology but also with the bridges that they can build with key industries, indispensable to reach the city dwellers.

3. By pairing up with key players to bring Nature back in our cities

Data has shown that 55% of the global population lives in cities and that number will reach 68% by 2050. Raising at the same time the number of people with more limited contact with Nature. Contrarily, studies have shown the benefit of Blue and Green spaces in people mental health. While directly creating more natural spaces in cities may be out of the Nature therapists control, they can still pair up with the key players in urbanised environments to reintroduce Nature in the city landscape.

Nature therapists are therapists. Unlike other kinds of Green Consultants, they are specialists in Human mental well-being. And Human well-being is at the top of businesses agenda, not only because it’s a global priority, but also because Human well-being sells. And it’s crucial to not turn down that opportunity because, in an urban environment, it is easier to add “Green” to Capitalism than to suppress “Capitalism” at all. Businesses and Capitalism can become strong allies to the Nature therapists in the form of Sustainable Businesses and Eco Capitalism. Businesses can leverage the Nature therapists knowledge in mental well-being to gain a competitive and sustainable advantage while giving support for the therapists' missions. And so for the benefit of all.

Another way to make an impact is to pair up with key players in strategic industries and make an impact by adopting a Top-Down approach and help people’s mental health indirectly by influencing industries: Advocating for more windows on housing and office spaces in the Construction Industry, Creating immersive experiences in underground spaces with Startups and other Technology companies, promoting that people’s health is people’s wealth in the Marketing and Communication Industry, Improving the well-being experience in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry, creating new nature-based concepts and contents in entertainment…there are plenty of industries where the Nature Therapists can plant the seeds for better human mental health in the short, medium and long term.

The Nature Therapist will earn strong allies, loads of precious data, new credentials and serious boosts in their roads toward their ultimate purpose which is to bring back Nature therapy into people’s mental well-being.

4. By pro-actively bringing Nature back into people’s Mind

The challenge to bring back Nature into people’s mind is even bigger than bringing it to their home or to the Cities because it’s about anchoring it in people’s lives in a continuous and sustainable way. To reintroduce Nature into people’s mind, Nature therapists also have to bring back Nature at the top of the agenda of mental health scientific and make it more popular amongst people. To date, studies and even awareness about Nature therapy in people’s mind are still marginal. The World can’t afford this marginalisation that is playing against ourselves. So to start that revolution, we need to connect the wires and turn on the power.

There are plenty of books about Crystals therapy but no serious studies about it. There are an audience and a demand, but no connection with the scientific world. Conversely, there is a growing scientific interest in Forest and Blue therapy but limited offers to the public. So there is a connection with the scientific world but not with people. These are issues when we need an incentive from both research and the public, to push governments to create more Green and Blue spaces in cities. Nature therapists need to work hand in hand with Science and with People for the benefit of their own practice but also for the benefit of the public in general. Each party is critical and all together, they contribute to enriching the collective intelligence in mental well-being.

Once the connections are made, the Nature therapists still have to be the driving force behind the expansion of their discipline and the confirmation of their leadership in complementary therapy. The impact made by Nature therapists will come first from their passion: that inexhaustible source of energy that is driving people to do their best and to kick out obstacles. And then it will come from their purpose, that feeling and knowing that what they do goes beyond themselves. So they can’t just wait for Scientists interest or for the public interest, they have to create the scientific and the public interests. They have to be more proactive in raising awareness about their existence and availability, pairing with more businesses, collecting more data, innovating with technology, triggering more and deeper studies, making Nature therapy more widespread by being more entrepreneurial… Then they will succeed to not only propel Nature therapy to join the A-list of complementary therapy but also to heal the mind of the World with Nature.

As a Nature Therapist, how do you use technology to reach more people? Have you already thought about different ways to make an impact and collaborating with other industries? Please share your valuable insights with us!


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