Log an evening in the woods for “ecotherapy,” a new term that refers to the numerous health benefits humans receive from regular outdoor sessions. Photo Credit John Hafner

When hunters say they’re going to the woods for some positive mental stimulation, some might consider it hogwash. But hunters have science in their corner.

Research finds mounting evidence that woodlands contain airborne substances (phytoncides) that relax humans, boost immunity, lower blood pressure and help fight cancer. Scientists are also finding compounds in the soil that improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression. Mind, a United Kingdom mental-health charity, compiled a long list of ecotherapies and published a study that found nature walks reduced depression symptoms in 71 percent of its participants. Mind also found that three in five people with mental-health problems felt more positiveabout their lives when leaving an ecotherapy project.

As if the natural and physical-healing properties of Mother Earth aren’t enough, research is also linking our time in nature with creativity boosts, positivity bouts and greater acceptance of people’s differences. In the paper Rewilding Music; Improvisation, Wilderness, and the Global Musician, researchers in Helsinki, Finland, followed six improvisational artists into the wilderness for three nights, and then to a group performance. The study’s participants were asked to reflect on their experience. They often said the qualities of listening, acceptance and authenticity were enhanced by their time in the outdoors. One participant said: “Personally, I am happiest when I am in the wilderness. I would stay there if I could, and I spend a lot of weekends just away from the city, in the peace of quiet of the forest, walking. I feel that when I’m there, I calm down.”