Although some depressed people think they should see a psychotherapist or get meds prescribed (or both), psychologists from the burgeoning field of eco-therapy have a simpler prescription: go outside and mingle with nature.
We humans, they argue, evolved to interact with nature and the outdoors, but beginning with the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago, we've largely become alienated from that world. Now that more than half of the world's population lives in cities, and those lives are increasingly taken over by computers and BlackBerrys (or iPhones), some people don't go outside at all except to travel from their homes to their offices. In fact, eco-therapists say that when their patients' begin writing in a nature journal to record how much time they spent outside, their records are pretty pathetic: most people spent less than 15 to 30 minutes walking to and from their cars!
I went on a long weekend in Yosemite recently, and although I'm not the type who loves not bathing for four days — it was wonderful not to get one email or phone call. Instead, I slept soundly from hiking so much and woke up looking at mountains, trees, and woodland creatures. We don't all need to go camping to cure the blues, though. Researchers have found that simply taking a walk outside every day could have the same effect as an antidepressant in treating moderate depression. I believe it.