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Back to nature in Berkshire

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Anne Diamond | 12:59 UK time, Tuesday, 15 June 2010

I've discovered something new. It's called "ecotherapy" - and today I met an ecotherapist who lives and practises right here in Berkshire!

Never heard of it? Well, here goes.

Cornfield on the Berkshire WayAs I was saying on the show the other day, I have found that spending time outdoors is an instant antidote to feeling low or tired. Dunno whether it's an age thing, but my mood is almost directly affected by my time outdoors - in the sunlight/sunshine, the fresh air or the garden.

Then at the weekend, a woman stopped me in a shop and said she heard me talking about it on BBC Radio Berkshire, and utterly agreed with me. She says she HAS to spend a number of hours a day outdoors or she feels depressed.

Perhaps it's not that surprising. We've already heard a lot about SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and today I learned about Thrive, which is a small charity based at Beech Hill, just outside Reading. They use gardening as a treatment or therapy, working with people with various kinds of disability. They've found it helps both physically and mentally.

My morning guest, Wokingham comedian Mackenzie Taylor, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, says it makes sense. We live sedentary, indoor lives, and he says many mental health workers already know the transforming properties of a simple walk outdoors.

But ecotherapy seems to be a way of directly addressing the problem by plugging people back into nature, to rescue their minds. 
Today, more than half of the world's population lives in cities, and many people barely ever get a glimpse of green. That's what the ecotherapists reckon, and I agree.
 Our Berkshire ecotherapist was Vivienne Bonnett who says she often takes her clients outdoors, working with horses.

One listener said she has nightmares about leaving her present job, gardening, to go back to an office job! Another, Kimberley, from Newbury, said it's the colours of the outdoors that do us good. Apparently it's all to do with reiki - she's a reiki master. That's why it feels great to see an open blue sky, or a huge expanse of green countryside, or a blue ocean.

Perhaps we should get back in touch with the very environment we're trying to protect. Me, I'll do my bit by gardening and creating gardening projects for myself - and let someone else bother with cleaning up the kitchen!


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