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CCCA Panel Highlights Nature as Healer

Austin-area ecotherapist Amy Sugeno, right, champions the benefits of spending time with nature and is a featured panelist at an upcoming seminar on using the outdoors to heal.

Comal County Conservation Alliance (CCCA) believes Comal County’s spectacular scenery might cure a lot of the depression, anxiety and other problems residents experience in their daily lives.

The environmental and conservation group is bringing in a panel of ‘ecotherapists’ to discuss “Health & Nature — How Nature Cures” from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13 at the Landa Haus, 360 Aquatic Circle in Landa Park, New Braunfels.

The presentation is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

Austin’s Amy Sugeno, a licensed therapist, is one of the experts who will explain the relatively new field of ecotherapy, which uses mindfulness and nature to improve mental health.

“It is hard to describe exactly how nature helps heal, comfort, and nurture our minds; yet, intuitively, undeniably, it happens,” she said. “A growing body of scientific studies tell us nature helps decrease loneliness, depression, and anxiety; regulate the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems; and decrease salivary cortisol levels, which relate to stress. Research has also found being in nature lifts our moods, improves cognition, and promotes positive feelings.”

Elizabeth Bowerman, CCCA president, said her group is excited about the upcoming event.

“We’ve all experienced the benefits of what is called ecotherapy at one time or another, but we didn’t know what to all it,” she said. “CCCA is very excited about starting this conversation in our community, which is rich in nature and fortunate to have people who understand how important it is to make sure we keep abundant sources of nature available to the residents of our county as we continue to grow.”

Ecotherapists like Sugeno say decades of research demonstrate the benefits of nature on mental health and well-being of people of all ages, including those suffering from depression, anxiety, children with ADHD, military veterans as well as first-responders suffering from PTSD.

Benefits of spending time in nature include reduced stress, depression and anxiety symptoms, lower blood pressure and blood glucose, increased immune-system functioning, and quicker post-surgery recovery.

“It’s really just about shifting your perspective slightly so instead of walking down the sidewalk lost in thought you’re seeing tree bark, how big a tree is, and how beautiful,” she said. “It’s just so simple. We’re so busy in our world that we get lost in that. That’s why I love my work…the most simple tree, the most common bird becomes this really nourishing experience. It can totally lift up your whole day. That power of where we place our attention, all around us, moments are happening.

“Thousands of moments.”







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