08/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Ecotherapy vs. Retail Therapy -- Which is Better?

Tempted to splurge to beat the blues or deal with stress? A study by the University of Essex in the UK says you're better off taking a walk in nature.

Researchers compared a walk in a country park with a walk in an indoor shopping center. Mind, the leading British mental health organization, reported that

The results were startling:
• 71% reported decreased levels of depression after the green walk
• 22% felt their depression increase after walking through an indoor shopping center and only 45% experienced a decrease in depression
• 71% said they felt less tense after the green walk
• 50% said their feelings of tension had increased after the shopping center walk
• 90% had increased self-esteem after the country walk
• 44% said their self-esteem decreased after window shopping in the shopping center.

The report also pointed out that 93% of UK general practitioners have prescribed drugs for mental health problems due to a lack of alternatives and that ecotherapy offers an inexpensive treatment with only positive side effects.

Ecotherapy involves getting outdoors and getting active in a green environment as a way of boosting mental well-being. Whether it's taking regular walks in the park, flying a kite or participating in a garden therapy project, green exercise is proven to have huge benefits for mental health.

So forget the old saying "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Shopping." The truth is that when times get tough, the smart go outdoors!

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