Ecotherapy With Bianca Young


Ecotherapy With Bianca Young

The Unlikely Gardener
Ashley-Ann Foster

Sunday, January 10, 2021

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As we continue to embrace the holiday spirit, today's column is a sweet treat especially for those of us who need a little quarantine inspiration. With 2021 being a prime year for ideas and more family togetherness, a bit of kid-friendly fun, self-introspection and alignment, a little ecotherapy can go a long way.


What is ecotherapy? In Bianca Young's words, ecotherapy is “mental and spiritual healing through engagement with nature and the environment. It's important as a means of attaining or supporting overall well-being. There's positive feedback in the human connection with nature. There's a symbiosis in receiving healing from nature's energy and in turn, giving back the same protective and sustainable vibrations to nature”.

Ecotherapy is an approach practised by professionals but one that can also be practised independently right at home in your garden!

Starting young

Like a good education that will never decay and a healthy serving of table manners, I'm told by “the moms” that it's never too early to engender healthy habits and encourage positive activities for a child's well-being and well-rounded perspective. The child-like understanding of humanity's connectivity with nature has assisted many of us in our healthy development by opening our eyes to a larger world and emboldening our sense of adventure.

Bianca explains, “Many of us don't have jobs or lifestyles that align with the environment. Today, you really have to put an effort into developing a relationship with nature. That connection and reliance on nature often starts young.”

Bianca's top eco-activites

1. Bird-watching

Jamaica is an ecologically wonderful place to birdwatch. The country boasts over 300 resident and migrant species from our coastal wetlands to inland forests. When you start to bird-watch you learn that they're very interesting. They have different calls, behavioural patterns…what they feed on, where they nest, how they impress their mates. A beautiful pastime…free of cost.

How to bird-watch

You can bird-watch in your garden in groups or by yourself. A pair of binoculars is always handy.

Find a quiet spot in your garden.

Document the birds you see.

Observe the characteristics of the bird: its looks, size, colours, what it's doing, the sounds it makes. Is it soaring high in the sky? Is it hopping on the ground?

Go online and research the bird's characteristics. Go at different times of day and compare what your see.

To level up, book a trip with a birding group and have an expert show you the ropes, like what colour clothing you should avoid wearing.

2. Nature as arts & craft

You will never run out of ideas with nature as the inspiration for your artistic expression.

Creative ideas

Mosaic pots: Find some old tiles or ceramic plates then place them in a towel. Hammer to gently break them into pieces. Soak clay pots in water for a couple of hours. Use an adhesive, like mortar, caulk or glue and tile grout, if desired, to attach the tile fragments to a pot of your choice. Create your own design with the tiles, clean them up with a damp towel and let dry. Afterwards, you can pot a plant in your new creation!

Palette garden: Use discarded palettes to create a frame to construct garden beds for different types of plants, even succulents!

Potpourri: Collect flowers or use faded birthday flowers and dry them for this creative activity. Put the dried flowers in jars. The jars lock in the fragrance which you can enjoy by leaving the tops open.

3. Eco for kids

Collecting adventures: Take a nature walk exploration with a child and collect found items along the way. Search and scan the area for various items of nature. For example, seed pods, seeds, feathers, stones and dry leaves. After collecting, take them home and make a collage on cartridge or other paper by gluing them on.

Leaf rubbing: This teaches children about the intricacies of leaves and other surfaces like tree bark. You don't even have to pick the leaf, though easier for the exercise. You can ago around from plant to plant with paper and charcoal or pencil. Hold the paper over the leaf or even the bark of a tree. Do some light shading to imprint the texture and design of the leaf.

Gardening projects: It's always fun to plant in ground or pot and plant then watch things grow, especially for our little ones, be it a potted garden or a vegetable patch. Even more so when they can reap their own fruits and veggies!

Nature scavenger hunts: Nature-based scavenger hunts are always fun for kids. Go out on a nature walk. Make a list before or during the walk of unique and eye-catching aspects in nature and have your little one find them. For example, a brightly coloured leaf or flower, a rock with a particular shape, a special tree or even an easy-to-find insect. To play, you don't have to be where there a lot of trees or nature. Even pointing out the weeds that are growing in the concrete cracks is good.

 Climbing trees, skipping stones, making paper out of cut grass. The options are endless.

Nature for the body

Jamaica has been hot on “nature for the body” for centuries. Our natural remedies, from cerasee to leaf of life, have inspired Bianca. She says, “On a physical level, natural remedies have enhanced my wellness.” Having planted her own fever grass and other herbs, “adding superfoods, especially those that you grow yourself, brings a lot of joy and motivation…the natural ways to strengthen your body are helpful, not only to treat COVID-19, but also to keep your immune system strong”.

As we commence a New Year, let's go a little bit more eco-friendly and make a commitment to spend a little more time to connect with nature, our families and ourselves.

May 2021 bring us all nature's peace, pleasant wonder and quiet sense of joy!

*Bianca Young is an environmental consultant for the United Nations Environment Programme and the Sandals Foundation.

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