Nature Therapy – how to improve your mental health in the great outdoors

Nature therapy, ecotherapy, forest bathing – call it what you will – is growing in popularity and it’s easy to see why; being out in nature is good for your physical and mental wellbeing.

Scientific studies are now proving what indigenous people have known for millennia…

Time immersed in nature – be that in woodland, the hills or mountains, or strolling along the beach – does wonders for the mind, body and soul.

Having spent all my life in the Suffolk countryside, it’s no surprise that I would eventually add nature therapy to my repertoire of healing methods.

So, on this page, I’ll talk about the different types of nature therapy and what you can expect from a one-to-one therapy session with me in the great outdoors…

nature therapy in Suffolk for better mental health and wellbeing

How does nature heal?

What is it about being out in nature that so lifts our mood?

Is it the fresh air and sunshine? Perhaps the sound of birdsong on a summer’s evening? Maybe it’s the spectacular scenery of a mountain range or a mesmeric cloud formation? Or the gentle lapping of waves on the shoreline?

Perhaps it’s as simple as taking time out for a walk in greenery where we can drop the everyday concerns and be alone with nature for a while?

Whatever it is, spending time outside and connecting to the natural world seems to do something to our mind-body systems. It re-boots us by connecting us to something beyond ourselves and, paradoxically, to the very core of who we are.

“How happy I am to be able to walk among the shrubs, the trees, the woods, the grass, and the rocks…”

Ludwig van Beethoven, in a letter to Therese Malfatti, summer 1808

If we can shift our habitual self-analysis away from ourselves we stop feeding the negative mind-loops that fuel depression, anxiety, and anger.

Not only that, but immersed in nature, we are also connected to something beyond ourselves – a larger reality.

Let the words of Herman Hesse explain better what I mean…

What is nature therapy?

So, if being out in nature can do this all by itself, where does the ‘therapy’ come into it?

Well, this is where trance plays a big part and why hypnotherapy and nature therapy work so well together.

You see, it’s not easy to leave behind the inward-attention trances that you’ve been living for years and suddenly shift your focus out toward nature.

Gaining volition over your attention mechanism takes practice. Getting out of your mind and all of its thought-chatter doesn’t come easy. Learning how to be fully present is an art form.

The thing is, most people you see taking a walk are not only taking a walk…

They are lost in their phones or their music. Or they are caught up in fantasy or silent dialogue. Or hypnotised by emotions about something that might have happened years ago: personal mind games and dramas.

Nature can serve as a distraction from the inner turmoil – If you know how to switch off your mind and immerse yourself in life all around you – out there.

This is one of the things you’ll get to master in nature therapy sessions with me and this is where therapy comes into it: gaining control over where your attention goes is tremendously therapeutic in that puts you in command of your emotional brain.

RELATED CONTENT: Learn how to calm your emotions and think like the Buddha

But it’s not just a matter of mastering your attention mechanism…

Nature and the therapeutic relationship

When I do hypnotherapy sessions in my office or online it is much like traditional counselling in that there are just the two of us: me in the role of the therapist and you as the client.

But conducting therapy sessions in the great outdoors introduces a third element – nature herself. It becomes a ‘triadic’ relationship.

Whereas we can maintain a sense of control of the environment in the therapy room, outside in the woods, fields, and meadows, something much bigger than ourselves can influence the direction the session can take…

  • Nature can speak to us in metaphor and symbolism, showing us clues to possible solutions that we might have otherwise been unaware of
  • The weather can change dramatically within the session – something we certainly cannot control, however much we’d like to!
  • There might be chance encounters with people you know as we ‘walk and talk’
  • And, with an open mind, nature can show us all manner of serendipitous things that can point us in new directions or provide us with an ‘aha’ moment, a sudden ‘awakening’ that creates an inner shift or change of attitude that you can take home with you

And that’s the thing…

Rather than seeing nature therapy as just a walk in the woods, its aim – like all good therapy – is to create lasting change within you.

If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence, we could rise up rooted, like trees

Rainer Maria Rilke

Image: Pix Poetry

Three types of nature therapy sessions

I offer three different types of nature therapy and all of them include working therapeutically with nature and our own trances, attention mechanisms, emotions, thoughts, fantasies and personal stories.

We can discuss these together and agree on which approach you’d like to try to help you get the most from outdoor therapy.

Each session lasts between 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes…

1. ‘Walk and Talk Therapy’

This involves taking the therapy session outside into nature…

But instead of sitting opposite each other, like we do in a room, we walk together and continue the therapeutic discussion whilst on the go. Some people find this much more comfortable as we are not required to make eye-contact.

There will be times – if conditions are right – when we take a seat and do more formal trance work or visualisation, much like we would in the office or online, to help you process what we’ve talked about and rehearse things going better.

See Walk and Talk Therapy as similar to what we do in the office but done outside, aided by nature herself; the fresh air, natural sounds, and the benefits of physical movement.

The therapeutic relationship still plays the main role in helping you make the changes you’re looking for.

2. Mindfulness and Meditation – Deep Immersion in Nature

In these sessions you learn to direct your attention away from your mind and connect up to nature herself. It’s about learning to be fully present with your immediate experience as it unfolds moment by moment.

This is where you learn to gain mastery over your attention mechanism, develop your Observing Self, and then even move beyond that by connecting up to a bigger reality.

Sometimes, when you ‘lose yourself’ in nature you experience moments of ‘pure consciousness’ – no longer controlled by limiting ‘ego’ beliefs and conditionings but free to be your True Self.

Who was it that once said something along the lines of, “You’ve got to lose yourself in order to find yourself’? Nature therapy can help you do that. This is where nature herself plays a part in your healing and personal development.

3. The Transformative Power of Walking the Labyrinth

I previously ran group workshops where all participants found working with the labyrinth to be enormously powerful*. It is rather like a Buddhist walking meditation or taking a short spiral ‘pilgrimage’ into the centre of the labyrinth and back out again.

Now you can experience this in one-to-one sessions; in my home village in Suffolk we are lucky enough to have a labyrinth and a woodland close by.

Walking a labyrinth gives us the chance to reflect on our life’s journey, any problems we’re facing and decisions we need to make, as well as help us connect to the authentic ‘core’ of ourselves. I call this the Soul. Then we can venture into the woods and assimilate your experience and what the labyrinth has taught you.

carved Buddha sitting in an old oak tree  at Thornham Walks, Suffolk
One of the locations I use for Nature Therapy sessions

Locations I use for nature therapy in Suffolk and Essex

Apart from the fixed location of the labyrinth (in the village of Elmswell in Suffolk), I use a variety of locations for Walk and Talk Therapy and Deep Immersions in Nature.

Click on the links below to find out more about each location…

Alton Water (near Ipswich)

Bradfield Woods (near Bury St. Edmunds)

Highwoods Country Park (in Colchester – for my Essex-based clients)

Knettishall Heath Nature Reserve (on the Suffolk/Norfolk border close to Thetford Forest)

Landguard Point (Felixstowe – a circular walk by the sea)

Needham Lake (near Stowmarket)

Nowton Park (in Bury St. Edmunds)

Redgrave and Lopham Fen (on the Suffolk/Norfolk border just off the A143)

Rendlesham Forest (near Woodbridge)

Thornham Walks (2 miles off the A140 near Mendlesham)

West Stow (5 miles north of Bury St. Edmunds)

All of the above locations have toilets and some have cafes.

Contact me now to book your nature therapy session

When you’ve chosen your preferred location call me to arrange a time for your session or just get in touch to find out more. Contact me via email or call 07921 331707.

We can discuss the type of nature therapy you’d like – walk and talk, deep immersion, or walking the labyrinth – and I’ll provide you with more info about what you can expect.

I look forward to helping you feel so much better in the great outdoors!

* For more on labyrinths and their use in healing and transformation, check out The Labyrinth Society website.

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