One of the most wonderful aspects of experiencing nature and becoming immersed in the wilderness is its incredible healing capacity and ability to reconnect us with the natural world. For many of us, the pressures of our modern day society place us in an environment which is distanced from that essential time in nature we so badly need. Though urban development is helping our cities to become more “green” and “pedestrian”, we still lack that crucial time where all cell phones, tablets, and cars no longer await us around each corner – and we feel completely involved with the fauna and flora around us. Spending time in that coveted natural space is something that all of us need, whether it’s an afternoon in a national park, or an adventure in some of Costa Rica’s most magnificent, naturally diverse regions.
Costa Rica is designated as one of the planet’s most precious ecological treasures, with some of the world’s finest and most varied biodiversity. Passionate endeavors from the government, organizations, businesses and communities have seen that much of Costa Rica’s fragile wildlife remains untouched, while encouraging a friendly, conscientious tourism industry to flourish which offers visitors a once in a lifetime experience. Visiting such a wondrous environment is a dream many aspire to achieve, and it’s not just about seeing star attractions. It’s about experiencing the surrounding environment in ways which are fulfilling and memorable to the soul.
Costa Rica provides the perfect setting for this, and in a variety of ways. One of them is its potential as an ecotherapy escape. Ecotherapy is defined as “healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the earth.” Recent years of studies have revealed that people who spend time in nature not only experience physical benefits (which subsequently have a positive impact on mental health as well) but also experience a greater peace of mind. This can occur on a small scale such as taking a ride through a park every day, or on a greater scale such as taking an environmentally-focused trip. “Green therapy” as it is also known has been proven to stimulate cognitive brain activity as well as help individuals who face mental health challenges.
The Greater Good
Certainly, Costa Rica provides a wealth of opportunities for people from all backgrounds to receive a healthy dose of ecotherapy. But it also enables – and empowers – individuals and groups to achieve something even more than that. By volunteering for a good cause, people not only spend time in a positive environment, but are also rewarded with a sense of fulfillment from working towards a conscientious project which has a positive impact on the ecosystem and the communities which flourish within it. For many people, it is projects such as this which can be a major turning point in their lives. People who have suffered from various struggles ranging from PTSD to substance abuse addiction have found purpose through helping others in a variety of ways, not only giving them responsibility but the knowledge that they are having a positive impact on someone else’s life. It is this very sense of purpose – as well as the support of the community – which makes volunteering such a poignant and powerful action. And ultimately, it is a step closer to finding an identity.
The learning experience which people undergo while volunteering on any project is immensely beneficial, not only for the technical skills learned but the personal journey. Meeting people who are like-minded but whose interests are diverse and finding support within that network can restore the sense of belonging that we all need, as well as the knowledge that every little contribution towards helping communities can accumulate to make a substantial difference.
Ecotherapy is more than simply a relaxing exercise in nature, but something which helps to fill an essential core part of our soul. Nature has always been a great muse on our personal journeys, and in turn, spending time in nature and working towards its protection and conservation is one way to give back. And there are myriad ways to do this, from volunteering at an ecotourist center, to campaigning online, raising funds for conservation efforts, planting trees, and helping wildlife recovery programs. Whatever the cause, one thing is clear – that being in nature and caring for its wellbeing is one of the best ways we can care for our ourselves.