Dr. Kurt Beil on Ecotherapy:
The Japanese have a term for immersing oneself in nature to restore the body and soul. It’s called “forest bathing,” and a Japanese doctor might send a patient for a walk in the woods to ease the physiological symptoms of stress. In the same way, Dr. Kurt Beil, a local practitioner of naturopathic and Chinese medicine, often prescribes outdoor time as part of his therapeutic treatments. He sat down with us recently to talk about “ecotherapy.”
Part of the intake paperwork my patients complete asks about “green time,” the amount of time they spend outdoors, versus “screen time,” spent in front of digital media. I use this information to have a discussion with them about achieving a healthier balance and, most often, getting outside more. There are many different ways to achieve this. For some people, it’s a walk on their lunch break or after dinner, or starting and maintaining a garden. For others it involves going on hikes on the weekends, or taking their children or grandchildren to the park. Whatever is going to work for the individual person is the best treatment. Fortunately, there is always something that will work for them—we just have a discussion to identify it.
Describe how you work with a client using ecotherapy. We work together to assess their health needs and the steps they can take to get there. For most people, part of this involves reducing stress, which has been shown to have significant impacts on physical and mental health, including blood pressure, digestive issues, immune system function, depression, anxiety, concentration and memory, and insomnia. I’ve done a lot of work in this area, and I share that research with patients so they understand that this can be a legitimate healthcare intervention with real health benefits.
I will often suggest a “prescription” for outdoor time, such as 30 minutes outside, three or four times a week. This can be walking in a park, working in the garden or just sitting in the backyard. The important thing is to be present with the experience of the natural world around us, and not distracted by our phones or our concerns. When given the opportunity to remove themselves from the stresses of their daily life, people automatically respond with sensations of relaxation and restoration. This is when real healing can occur. It sounds very simple, and it can be, but often it’s also very challenging for people to make time for themselves in this way.
A typical new-patient visit is 90 minutes. It involves a review of both the chief complaints that brought them in and their other body systems, so I can get a picture of their total health. We also discuss lifestyle, such as diet, physical activity, sleep patterns and life stressors that may be contributing to their symptoms. My recommendations may include herbal or nutritional supplements, homeopathic remedies and dietary and lifestyle changes. Follow-up visits involve continued evaluation and recommendations, as well as other therapies such as acupuncture or biofeedback. I use many options to help a person get to their desired level of health.
0My goal is always to help my patients achieve their optimal level of health and well-being. That includes much more than “not being sick.” It involves them feeling positive about their bodies and their lives. Often the environmental context has a large but unconscious influence on those perceptions of health, so I help patients become aware of simple shifts they can make to wake up to opportunities of health that are all around them.
Dr. Kurt Beil sees patients in Danbury, Connecticut, and at The Center for Health and Healing in Mount Kisco. He will give a free presentation on ecotherapy at the Leonard Park Tea House Pavilion in Mount Kisco on June 2, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. See calendar listings for details. For more info, contact him at [email protected] or visit HudsonValleyNaturalHealth.com.