Photo of a person mountain biking
Take your bicycle off the road and into nature for a deeper healing experience [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Green exercise – healing body, mind & soul in nature

23 February, 2012

Spending time indoors, living in built up areas and failing to be present with nature when in nature, have lead to what I call nature malnourishment.

There is a growing recognition that humanity’s increasing isolation from the natural world is a significant and important contributor to the prevalence and intensity of distress, emptiness and the feeling of ‘not belonging’ that is being witnessed throughout the developed and now developing world.

Contact and connection with nature provides our body, mind and soul with a deep level of nourishment, which in turn promotes vitality, emotional health, mental health and indeed spiritual growth and maturation.

Restoring the bond

What’s more by feeling close to nature, we are moved to naturally live our lives in a more sustainable and respectful way, one that honours and supports nature.

Restoring that bond and connection is essential, not only for our sake, but also our planet and helping my patients reconnect to their own nature, through nature, is something I have a deep passion for.

It’s something that anyone to do and I encourage you to start reading about nature connection and to spend regular quality time in nature.

Green your gym routine

One of the best ways to start is by ditching the gym and exercising in nature. This could involve going for a walk or run in a local park. Or riding your bike along a nature trail. ‘Green exercise’ as this is referred to isn’t just good for your body. It has been found to lift mood, accelerate healing and help bring life challenges into perspective.

Evidence for the benefits of green exercise is so powerful that in the UK the charity Natural England is now funding eight Green Exercise projects through local partnerships around the regions. The aim is to connect people to nature in their local areas and it is one of the most cost-effective ways of improving the nation’s physical and mental wellbeing.

You could try something more ambitious such as participating in a conservation project, such as those run by BTCV. The mental health charity MIND also runs 130 Ecominds projects around the UK where you can volunteer to work on a number of green outdoor projects from recycling to gardening to bike repair.

Or just get outside

Other suggestions to consider are wilderness trips and nature outings, such as Outward Bound, a charity that aims to help young people realise their potential through learning in the wild. Or you could join a local Ramblers group.

There are also a number of companies that run vision quests, which involve preparing to enter an area of wilderness with the intention of seeking wisdom or a vision (see Resources below). It is particularly well-suited to those who are going through and honouring a rite of passage.

Wilderness camps are an increasingly popular way to assist emotionally disturbed children and adults with mental health challenges.

One study found that participants who work through their fears and anxieties during this time in the wilderness experience greater self-esteem, a willingness to trust and deeper self-acceptance.

Whatever you choose to do, when you are in nature, you can get the most benefit by really by listening to her with your entire body. Be open and receptive to nature’s positive and healing influence on you and you can’t help but be touched in a very positive way by the experience.


Vision Quests

Earth Encounters (UK)

Rites of Passage (International)

School of Lost Borders (US)

Animas Valley Institute (US)


Nature & The Human Soul by Bill Plotkin

The Nature Principle by Richard Louv

Ecotherapy by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist