Outdoor Therapy Is the Self-Care Ritual You Need Right Now — and Here’s How to Do It

Medicine is just one way to address mental and physical wellness issues.

Simply spending any amount of time in nature can have powerful healing effects — powerful enough to rival the potential benefits of western medicine. That's caught the attention of the medical community, and some doctors are now prescribing an entirely new course of treatment for various mental and physical health ailments.

In a clinical setting, it's known as ecotherapy, the realm in which the recommendation to spend time outside and do nature-based exercises is being prescribed as a supplement to help with issues including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

"We write prescriptions for all kinds of medicines. In addition to that, we're starting to see nature and parks, not just as a place to recreate, but literally as a place to heal yourself," Dr. Robert Zarr told NBC News. Zarr is the medical director of Park RX America, a nonprofit that connects doctors and park managers for therapeutic purposes. 

Of course, many people have long known from their own real-world experiences — even when they're not in the mood — that getting outside and moving is therapeutic for both mind and body, whether there's a specific medical issue or not. 

If you're interested in creating your own informal outdoor therapy regiment without the participation of medical professionals, consider taking inspiration from Top Chef judge Gail Simmons, who decompressed from shooting Season 15 by spending as much time in the Colorado air as she could. The "perfect antidote" to those long days long nights — all spent indoors — she said, involved outdoor activities in idyllic natural environments... from serene and meditative practices like fly fishing, to adrenaline boosters like ziplining at 60 miles per hour through the forest.

Gail chronicles her adventures in the digital series Gail's Day Off, which showcases the natural beauty of must-see Colorado locales like Denver, Boulder, and Telluride.

"Our days are 16 hours long sometimes, and most of it is spent either in a restaurant or on a soundstage," she said while fishing. "So being out, smelling the fresh air — that's what Colorado is all about."

Watch the videos above for inspiration — and perhaps even a bit of second-hand healing as you make your own plans to get out and get moving in nature!

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