The Path to Mental Health: Using Trails to Equip Healthy Communities
January 25, 2024 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
This session will begin with an example ecotherapy exercise to demonstrate the impacts of nature on mental health. Participants will be asked to imagine a natural space that serves as their refuge in times of stress, and list how that space supports them.
After that introductory exercise and a brief overview of the speaker and related work, we will dive into what ecotherapy/nature mindfulness is and why it’s important.
This section will include:
- Brief history of ecotherapy and its main theories
- Summary of research on the physical and mental impacts of nature exposure
- Examples of ecotherapy activities that can be done on trails
- Why ecotherapy is important from an accessibility/scalability perspective, as well as equity considerations for implementation
- Why ecotherapy is vital for addressing climate grief and anxiety and inspiring community action In addition to this background on ecotherapy and mental health, we’ll briefly cover the connection between ecotherapy and public health in terms of reducing social isolation and creating cohesive, active communities.
The presenter offers two examples from their own work and will discuss the development of Ecotherapy Trails and a Campus Ecotherapy Guide at Butler University, and the new Mindful Nature Walks program with Indy Community Yoga, both in Indianapolis. These pilot projects can demonstrate ideas for audience members to implement in their own communities, on their own trails, and at different scales, and also show the importance of collaboration for community health. Lastly, they’ll discuss how cross-sector partnerships can accelerate ecotherapy projects, such as between institutions, individuals, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders, using the two previously mentioned projects as examples. The presenter will suggest strategies for success in project collaboration before we end with Q & A.
Trail uses: nonmotorized. Relevant to: natural and paved surfaces.
- Attendees will be able to describe ecotherapy and nature-based stress reduction, its history and relevance, and potential activities
- Attendees will understand the benefits of cross-disciplinary collaboration to support mental health and wellbeing in their communities, especially in relation to trails and recreation spaces
- Attendees will learn about potential tools and programs to replicate ecotherapy or place-based supports for wellbeing in their own communities and on their own trails!