“It helps me to be more aware and connected to my body when I spent so many years trying to disconnect”: A qualitative study on the effect of time spent in nature on eating disorder recovery




Buchkowski, Megan

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Eating disorders (EDs) are one of the deadliest mental health disorders (Walsh, 2017) with a high relapse rate (Berends et al., 2016) and complex treatment needs (NCCMH, 2004; NICE, 2020). One of the most common experiences of people suffering from EDs is a lack of embodiment and disconnection from their bodies (Piran, 2017; Cook-Cottone, 2020). As such, increasing positive embodiment and the positive relationship with one’s body is a means to help support those with EDs towards recovery (Cook-Cottone, 2020). Time spent in nature has been shown to increase embodiment (Monteleone et al., 2017; Lumber et al., 2017) as well as have positive benefits on human health in general (Barton, 2009; Stigsdotter & Grahn, 2011; Sahlin et al., 2014). The current study examined the effects of time spent in nature on ED recovery in a sample of seven women residing in North America. Participants shared that spending time in nature helped them appreciate and care for their bodies as well as helped them to calm their anxious minds, providing a foundation on which to build and maintain recovery from their ED. Participants also noted that being out in nature helped them feel connected to other people and other beings, leading to feeling a sense of belonging and a part of something bigger than themselves. They shared that nature was a non-judgemental space where all bodies were important and they were accepted just as they are. The findings from this study have implications for ED treatment, suggesting that spending time in nature may support ED recovery and maintenance. Nature may be an accessible and affordable foundation for people suffering from EDs to build recovery, find peace, experience positive embodiment, and connect to something larger than themselves.



nature, eating disorder recovery, eating disorders, nature-based therapy, women and nature, nature healing effects, eating disorders and nature