The Power of Nature in Therapy: Scientific Evidence and Shamanic Approaches

It’s no secret that spending time in nature can make us feel better, but have you ever wondered about the science behind it? The healing power of nature in therapy is a growing field, backed by research and ancient traditions alike. From the benefits of simply being in a natural setting, to the role of shamanism and plant medicine in healing, to practical ways of incorporating nature into therapy sessions, this article will explore the science and art of nature therapy. So, whether you’re a therapist looking to expand your practice, or someone interested in holistic approaches to wellness, read on to discover how nature can be a powerful ally on the path to healing.

The Science of Nature Therapy

The Science Of Nature Therapy
Nature therapy, also known as ecotherapy or green therapy, is a form of therapy that harnesses the healing power of the outdoors for the wellness of the individual. Studies have shown that being in nature, even for short periods of time, can have significant benefits to mental and physical health, such as reducing stress and improving mood. The benefits of nature therapy include boosting creativity, improving cognitive function, and promoting mindfulness and peace. Ecopsychology is a field of psychology that studies the connection between nature and the human psyche, while biophilia is the human tendency to seek connection with nature. Shamanic approaches to nature therapy may involve engaging in rituals, using plant spirit medicine, and exploring the connection between nature and spirituality. Nature therapy offers a natural, holistic approach to healing and well-being.

The Benefits of Nature Therapy

Nature therapy has countless benefits for both mental and physical health. Here are some of the benefits of incorporating nature into therapy sessions:

Reduces Stress Being in nature has been shown to reduce stress levels and lower cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in the body, leading to a feeling of calmness and relaxation.
Increases Happiness Nature has a positive effect on our mood and can improve feelings of happiness, positivity, and life satisfaction.
Improves Mental Health Studies have shown that being in nature can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and can increase overall emotional well-being.
Boosts Physical Health Nature therapy has been linked to lower blood pressure, improved immune function, and reduced inflammation, which can lead to a lower risk of chronic illness.
Increases Mindfulness The natural environment helps us to be present and engage all of our senses, which can enhance our mindfulness and self-awareness during therapy sessions.
Provides Perspective The openness and vastness of nature can help us gain perspective, find a sense of purpose and meaning, and reconnect with our values and spirituality.

These benefits highlight why nature therapy is an effective form of therapy and why it is increasingly being used as a complementary treatment to traditional therapy methods. Incorporating nature into therapy sessions can lead to a more holistic healing experience. Research has shown that people who spend time in nature are more likely to protect it, which means that nature therapy can have a positive impact on the environment, as well as on human health and well-being.

The Scientific Explanation

The scientific explanation behind the healing power of nature in therapy lies in the concept of biophilia. Biophilia is a term coined by biologist E.O. Wilson, which refers to the innate human tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. This hypothesis suggests that humans have an instinctual attraction to the natural world due to our evolutionary past, where survival often depended on the ability to adapt and find resources in the natural environment.

By applying this concept to therapy, it is proposed that spending time in nature can promote positive mental and physical health outcomes. Studies have shown that interacting with nature can lead to reduced stress and anxiety levels, improved cognitive function, increased empathy and social connection, as well as enhanced immune function.

One theory to explain these results is the attention restoration theory which suggests that nature provides a restorative environment that allows individuals to replenish their cognitive resources depleted by daily life stressors. In contrast, in urban environments, attention is constantly demanded to deal with an excessive amount of stimuli, leading to cognitive fatigue.

Another related hypothesis is the stress reduction theory which suggests that exposure to nature lowers the levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, resulting in reduced anxiety and depression symptoms.

Additionally, nature therapy can enhance self-awareness, mindfulness, and spiritual connection, which promote personal growth and healing on a holistic level.

Biophilia theory provides a scientific explanation for the healing power of nature, and the benefits of nature therapy have been supported by numerous studies. Incorporating nature into therapy can have positive mental and physical health outcomes, and it is an effective approach for promoting the path to holistic healing.

Ecopsychology: The Study of Nature and Psychology

Ecopsychology: The Study of Nature and Psychology involves the study of the relationship between human beings and the natural environment, and how this relationship impacts psychological well-being. This field of study explores the deep connection that exists between humans and nature, and how this connection influences human behavior, emotions, and thinking patterns.

Ecopsychology is concerned with understanding the underlying psychological mechanisms that explain why nature has a healing effect on people. According to this theory, human beings evolved in nature and are thus biologically programmed to respond positively to natural stimuli. Exposure to natural environments has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and increase cognitive function.

Ecopsychology also explores how modern society’s detachment from nature affects mental health. The shift towards urbanization and technological advancement has led to a loss of connection to the natural world. This disconnection has been linked to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and stress.

To address this issue, ecopsychology recommends incorporating nature into therapy sessions. This can be achieved through various activities such as hiking, gardening, or simply spending time in natural environments. By reconnecting with nature, individuals can improve their mental health and well-being.

Ecopsychology highlights the importance of nature to human psychological well-being. By studying the connection between humans and nature, this field of psychology offers insights into how to improve mental health through nature-based therapies. If you’re interested in other nature-based therapies, you can find more information on nature-based therapy for stress or shamanism and nature-based therapy.

Biophilia: The Human Connection to Nature

Biophilia: The Human Connection to Nature is a term coined by biologist Edward O. Wilson in the 1980s, referring to a person’s innate affinity towards nature. This idea suggests that humans have an inherent tendency to seek a connection with nature as a result of our evolutionary history and the long-term relationships we have had with our natural environment.

Recent research has confirmed the existence of biophilia in humans, demonstrating that exposure to nature can positively affect our physical and mental well-being. For instance, spending time in natural environments has been found to reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance cognitive function. Additionally, biophilia has been linked to improved creativity, academic performance, and overall quality of life.

It is believed that the presence of greenery and natural elements can activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and rest. This, in turn, provides an opportunity for an individual’s body and mind to heal and recover. Incorporating nature into therapy sessions may enhance the overall effectiveness of the treatment, especially for individuals experiencing high levels of stress or trauma.

Connecting with nature can also foster a sense of environmental awareness and responsibility, leading to a more sustainable lifestyle and a willingness to protect and preserve the natural world.

Recognizing and utilizing the biophilic connection between humans and nature can be a powerful tool in promoting healing and well-being. By incorporating natural elements and surroundings into therapy, individuals can experience a deeper sense of relaxation and connection with the world around them. It is a path towards holistic healing that can benefit everyone, regardless of background or beliefs.

Reconnecting with Nature and Spirituality can be a crucial step towards biophilic awareness, as it encourages us to tap into our inherent connection with nature and to embrace it as a fundamental aspect of our being. Combining nature-based spiritual practices with therapy sessions can provide a unique route towards self-discovery, healing, and personal growth.

Shamanic Approaches to Nature Therapy

Shamanic approaches to nature therapy incorporate traditional healing practices with the power of nature to promote wellness and healing. Shamanism involves connecting with spiritual energies and the natural world to gain insight and healing. By combining shamanism with nature therapy, individuals can access a deeper level of understanding and make strides towards personal growth and emotional healing. Shamanic rituals and ceremonies, such as sweat lodges and vision quests, offer a unique opportunity for individuals to connect with themselves and with nature on a spiritual level. Plant spirit medicine is another powerful tool used in shamanic nature therapy, where plants are believed to have spirit or energetic properties that can aid in healing. By integrating shamanic practices into nature therapy, individuals can experience profound emotional and spiritual growth while connecting with the natural world.

The Role of Shamanism in Healing and Wellness

Shamanism is an ancient healing tradition that is based on the belief that all things in nature are interconnected. This holistic approach to healing focuses on the spiritual and emotional aspects of an individual rather than just the physical. Shamanic healing practices are rooted in the idea that everything in nature has a spirit and that by connecting with these spirits, we can gain wisdom, insight, and healing.

The Benefits of Shamanic Healing

Shamanic healing practices can be beneficial to individuals dealing with a wide range of physical, emotional, and spiritual issues. By connecting with the natural world and working with spirit guides, shamans can help individuals:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Relieve physical pain
  • Improve emotional wellbeing
  • Overcome addiction
  • Rediscover their sense of purpose and direction in life

Shamanic healing is a powerful tool that can help individuals on their journey towards holistic healing and wellness.

The Shamanic Journey

One of the core practices of shamanism is the shamanic journey, which involves entering an altered state of consciousness to communicate with spiritual beings and gain insight and guidance. The shamanic journey can be a powerful tool for healing and personal growth, as it allows individuals to access inner wisdom and explore their own spiritual landscape.

During a shamanic journey, the shaman may use tools like a drum or rattle to induce a trance-like state of consciousness. The journeyer then travels through different realms of spiritual reality, encountering spirit guides and other entities that can offer insight and guidance.

Integrating Shamanic Practices into Nature Therapy

Shamanic healing practices can be particularly effective when integrated with nature therapy. The natural world is viewed as a powerful source of healing energy in shamanism, and spending time in nature can help individuals connect with their own inner wisdom and the wisdom of the natural world.

Some examples of shamanic practices that can be integrated into nature therapy include:

  1. Plant spirit medicine, which involves working with the spirits of plants to gain insight and healing
  2. Meditative walks, which allow individuals to quiet their minds and connect with nature on a deeper level
  3. Earth-based rituals, which honor the natural world and its cycles
  4. Animal spirit guides, which can offer insight and guidance on an individual’s healing journey

Shamanic healing practices can be a powerful tool for individuals on their path to holistic healing and wellness. When integrated with nature therapy, these practices can help individuals connect with their own inner wisdom and the healing energy of the natural world.

Shamanic Rituals and Nature

Shamanic rituals are used in many cultures as a way to connect with the natural world and to facilitate healing. Nature plays a central role in shamanic practices because many indigenous traditions see the earth and all living things as interconnected. Shamanic rituals can be performed for a variety of reasons, including emotional and physical healing, personal growth, and spiritual connection.

One of the most common shamanic rituals is the vision quest, where a person goes into nature alone for a period of time in order to connect with the spirit world. Another common practice is the use of medicine plants, such as ayahuasca or peyote, which are believed to have healing properties and the ability to facilitate spiritual connection.

Drumming and dancing are also common components of shamanic rituals, with the rhythm and movement helping to alter consciousness and open one up to spiritual experiences. Combining these activities with being in nature can lead to truly transformative experiences.

In shamanic practice, it is believed that spiritual power resides in all things in nature, from the trees and rocks to the animals and stars. This power can be tapped into through shamanic rituals, allowing healers to work in partnership with the spirits of nature to bring about positive change.

Shamanic rituals and nature have been used for centuries to facilitate emotional and physical healing and to connect with the spiritual world. By tapping into the power of nature through these practices, individuals can find a deeper sense of peace, connection, and understanding of the world around them.

Internal link: Shamanic Nature for Emotional Healing

Plant Spirit Medicine and Nature Healing

Plant Spirit Medicine is a type of nature therapy that focuses on the spiritual and energetic properties of plants for physical and emotional healing. Traditional healers in many cultures have used this approach for centuries, and it is gaining popularity in Western medicine.

When plants are used in this way, it is believed that their medicinal properties are not just chemical, but also energetic. Each plant has its own spirit, or energy, that can be used to connect with and heal a patient’s own spirit. This approach is particularly helpful for those who believe that their illness or ailment may have a spiritual root cause.

How Does Plant Spirit Medicine Work?
Plant Spirit Medicine practitioners believe that plants have healing qualities beyond what can be explained by their chemical composition alone. When a patient takes a plant-based medicine, the spirit of the plant is transferred to the patient, along with its healing properties. The patient is able to connect with the spirit of the plant, which can bring about deep healing and transformation on a spiritual level.

The Role of the Healer
In Plant Spirit Medicine, the role of the healer is to act as a conduit between the patient and the plant spirits. The healer’s job is to identify which plants are most appropriate for the patient’s needs, and to guide the patient in using these plants for healing. The healer may also perform various rituals and ceremonies to help the patient connect with the spirit of the plant.

Plant Spirit Medicine Techniques
There are several different techniques used in Plant Spirit Medicine, including:

  • Plant Dieting: This involves ingesting a plant for a certain period of time, during which the patient is asked to abstain from certain foods and behaviors. This helps to facilitate a deeper connection with the plant spirit.
  • Plant Baths: These involve immersing oneself in a bath of plant-infused water. The plant spirits are believed to enter the patient’s body through their skin, providing both physical and emotional healing.
  • Plant Smudging: This involves burning plants and using the smoke to cleanse the patient’s energy field. Different plants are used for different purposes, such as purifying the air or promoting relaxation.

Plant Spirit Medicine is a powerful form of nature therapy that can bring about deep spiritual healing and transformation. It is particularly useful for those who feel that their illness or ailment may have a spiritual root cause. By connecting with the spirit of plants, patients are able to access a deep wellspring of healing energy that can bring balance and harmony to all aspects of their being.

Cases of Nature Therapy

Cases Of Nature Therapy
The healing power of nature has been acknowledged for centuries, and its potential for therapy continues to be explored by modern science. Various case studies have demonstrated the positive effects of nature therapy on mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. For instance, forest therapy, also known as Shinrin-yoku, has been found to significantly reduce depressive symptoms and improve cognitive function. Beach therapy, on the other hand, has been shown to alleviate anxiety and improve overall well-being. Wilderness therapy, where individuals spend extended periods in the outdoors, has been used to overcome addiction by increasing self-awareness and promoting self-care. As such, nature therapy holds endless possibilities for promoting holistic healing and well-being.

Case Study 1: Forest Therapy for Depression

In this case study, we explore the use of forest therapy as a treatment for depression. Forest therapy, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese practice that involves immersing oneself in nature to improve mental and physical health. The therapy involves walking through a forest or natural environment in silence and taking the time to appreciate the surroundings.

The patient in this case study was a 35-year-old woman who had been clinically diagnosed with depression. She had tried several medications and talk therapy, but nothing seemed to work. The patient was then recommended to try forest therapy as an alternative form of treatment.

During her forest therapy sessions, she spent time walking through a local forest with a trained therapist. She was encouraged to take in all of her surroundings – the sights, smells, and sounds of the forest. The patient also engaged in simple activities such as meditation and breathing exercises during her sessions.

After a few weeks of regular forest therapy sessions, the patient began to see significant improvements in her mood and overall mental health. She reported feeling more relaxed, optimistic, and connected to nature. The patient was also able to reduce her medication dosage, with the help of her medical provider, after several months of forest therapy.

Further studies have shown that forest therapy can have measurable effects on depression and overall well-being. By spending time in nature and engaging in simple activities, individuals may be able to reduce stress levels and improve their mental health. The results of this case study and others suggest that forest therapy can be a valuable addition to traditional treatments for depression and other mental health conditions.

Case Study 2: Beach Therapy for Anxiety

In a case study conducted on individuals with anxiety disorders, it was found that beach therapy significantly improved their symptoms. The study took place in Australia where the participants were taken to the beach for a period of 12 weeks.

Throughout the course of the 12-week program, the participants engaged in a variety of activities on the beach including meditation, yoga, and walking. They were also given the opportunity to participate in group therapy sessions which aimed to assist them in developing coping mechanisms for dealing with their anxiety.

At the end of the 12 weeks, it was discovered that the participants who had engaged in beach therapy displayed notable improvements in their symptoms of anxiety. They reported feeling more calm, relaxed and centered. Their overall mood and quality of life also improved significantly.

The researchers found that the participants displayed a greater appreciation for nature and natural environments, and expressed a desire to continue to engage with nature post-treatment.

This study provides substantial evidence for the effectiveness of beach therapy as a form of treatment for anxiety disorders. It suggests that the exposure to natural environments can have a profound impact on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being, providing a therapeutic and calming effect that is often difficult to achieve through traditional forms of therapy.

Case Study 3: Wilderness Therapy for Addiction

A wilderness therapy program is a unique form of addiction treatment that utilizes the healing powers of nature to help individuals overcome their addiction challenges. Case study 3 is an example of how wilderness therapy can be an effective treatment option for substance abuse.

In this case, a young man with a history of substance abuse sought treatment through a wilderness therapy program. The program involved spending weeks in the wilderness, away from modern amenities and technology. Instead, the individual had to rely on themselves and their peers to survive in the wilderness.

The program focused on building self-esteem, personal responsibility, and team-building skills. The individual was able to work on their addiction issues, while also gaining a new perspective on life. The quiet and isolated surroundings of the wilderness provided a peaceful setting that allowed for reflection and introspection.

The program also involved therapy sessions with licensed professionals who focused on addressing the root causes of the individual’s addiction. By addressing underlying emotional and psychological issues, the individual was able to gain a better understanding of themselves and their addiction challenges.

Overall, wilderness therapy proved to be a life-changing experience for this individual, allowing them to break free from their addiction and gain the skills and confidence necessary for a successful recovery. Wilderness therapy is just one example of how nature can be a powerful tool in addiction treatment and recovery.

Practical Applications of Nature Therapy

When it comes to incorporating nature into therapy sessions, there are many practical applications to consider. One approach is to have therapy sessions outdoors, in a park or green space. This can allow for a more relaxed environment which can promote feelings of wellbeing. Another approach is to incorporate specific nature-based activities such as hiking, gardening, or bird watching. These activities can promote mindfulness and stress relief, as well as provide opportunities for discussing deeper issues. Tools and techniques such as guided meditations or ecotherapy exercises can also be effective in helping individuals connect with nature and reap its therapeutic benefits. By incorporating nature into therapy sessions, therapists can help their clients achieve holistic healing and wellness.

How to Incorporate Nature into Therapy Sessions

How to Incorporate Nature into Therapy Sessions

Nature therapy can be implemented into therapy sessions in a variety of ways that can enhance the healing experience for patients. Here are some ideas for incorporating nature into therapy sessions:

Method Description
Nature walks Take therapy sessions outside and go for a walk in a park, forest, or by a body of water. This can help patients feel more grounded, present, and connected to nature. It allows for a change of environment and can provide a calming effect.
Outdoor meditation Find a quiet spot outdoors where patients can meditate with nature as their backdrop. The natural environment can enhance the meditative experience by grounding patients and helping them focus more on their senses and surroundings.
Nature art therapy Encourage patients to create art inspired by nature. This can include sketching, painting, or even taking photographs of the natural environment. Art therapy can be an effective way for patients to process their emotions and experiences while feeling connected to nature.
Green therapy office Incorporate more plants and natural elements into the therapy office space. Bringing the outdoors indoors can have a calming effect and create a more welcoming and serene environment for patients to relax and feel comfortable.
Nature-based mindfulness exercises Include mindfulness exercises that focus on connecting to nature. This can include a guided imagery exercise where patients imagine themselves in a peaceful natural setting, or a sensory exercise where patients focus on the sounds, smells, and sensations they experience in nature.

By incorporating nature into therapy sessions, therapists can create a more holistic approach to healing that considers the environment in which patients live and interact. These methods can be used in combination or individually depending on the patient and their needs.

Tools and Techniques for Nature Therapy

Tools and Techniques for Nature Therapy are important aspects of the process that should be taken into account for effective results. These tools and techniques have been developed over time, and some of them include:

1. Sensory awareness exercises: These exercises involve paying attention to the senses to gain a deeper connection with nature. A therapist may ask their patient to sit quietly and focus on the sounds of the environment, the smells, the textures, and the colors of the natural setting.

2. Mindfulness meditation: This is a form of meditation that helps individuals to stay present in the moment and avoid distractions. It involves relaxing in a natural setting and focusing on the breath while embracing the surroundings. This helps to reduce anxiety and stress.

3. Outdoor activities: Outdoor activities like hiking, camping, kayaking, and rock climbing provide a sense of adventure and challenge. They help individuals break out of their comfort zones, improve their physical fitness, and develop a sense of connection with nature.

4. Gardening: Gardening is another popular technique for nature therapy. It provides an opportunity for individuals to immerse themselves in nature, get their hands dirty and connect with the life cycle of plants. This can have a calming effect and improve mood.

5. Animal therapy: Animals like dogs, horses, and dolphins are often used in nature therapy to help individuals develop empathy and build trust. These animals provide companionship and unconditional love, which can be comforting for individuals going through a difficult time.

6. Art therapy: Creating art in a natural setting can be a powerful experience. It helps individuals to express themselves creatively and tap into their emotions. Art materials like watercolors, pastels, and clay may be used to help patients connect with nature and express their feelings.

7. Ecotherapy journals: Writing down experiences in nature can be therapeutic. Individuals can keep a journal where they record their thoughts and feelings during outdoor activities. This helps them to process their emotions and deepen their connection with nature.

These tools and techniques for nature therapy are valuable resources for individuals seeking to improve their mental health and overall well-being. They provide a way to connect with nature and promote a sense of peace and mindfulness, while also building a deeper understanding of oneself and the world around us.


As we have seen, nature therapy has a deep and profound impact on our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Through countless studies and observations, we know that spending time in nature can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while boosting our immune system, creativity, and overall sense of happiness. The power of nature therapy lies in its ability to reconnect us with our primal and essential selves – the part of us that is deeply rooted in the natural world. So, if you’re struggling with any kind of mental or emotional challenge, take some time to connect with nature. Go for a walk in the park, sit by the river, or just spend a few minutes gazing at the stars. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you. Remember, we are a part of nature, and we need it just as much as it needs us.

Nature Therapy and the Path to Holistic Healing

When it comes to holistic healing, nature therapy can play a crucial role. Nature therapy is a holistic approach to healing that focuses on the connection between humans and nature. By spending time in nature, we can experience a range of benefits that can improve our well-being on multiple levels – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Through nature therapy, individuals can learn to better understand themselves and their place in the world. By connecting with the natural world, they can gain a sense of purpose and meaning, leading to increased self-awareness, self-acceptance, and personal growth.

Moreover, nature therapy is not just about spending time outdoors, it incorporates a range of practices and techniques that facilitate healing and wellness. This can include anything from hiking and camping to meditation, yoga, and contemplation.

Many experts believe that by incorporating natural elements into their practice, therapists can create a more effective and holistic approach to healing. This is because nature has a way of calming the mind, reducing stress and anxiety, and promoting feelings of relaxation and well-being.

Incorporating nature therapy into one’s life can also lead to sustainable lifestyle changes, as individuals develop a deeper appreciation and respect for the natural world. This can lead to a greater sense of responsibility towards the environment and a deeper commitment to environmental conservation efforts.

As research continues to support the connection between nature and healing, more and more individuals are turning to nature therapy as a way of improving their mental and physical well-being. By incorporating this holistic approach into existing therapeutic practices, therapists can create a more well-rounded, effective, and sustainable path to healing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is nature therapy?

Nature therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on using nature to promote healing and wellness. It can involve activities such as hiking, gardening, and spending time in natural settings.

What are the benefits of nature therapy?

Nature therapy has been shown to have numerous benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, improved mood, increased energy levels, and better sleep quality.

What is ecopsychology?

Ecopsychology is a field of study that explores the relationship between nature and human psychology. It seeks to understand how nature affects our mental health and well-being.

What is biophilia?

Biophilia is the innate human connection to nature. It is the idea that humans have an instinctual affinity for the natural world and a desire to be close to it.

What is shamanism?

Shamanism is a spiritual practice that involves connecting with the spirit world to promote healing and wellness. It often involves the use of rituals, ceremony, and connection with nature.

What are some shamanic approaches to nature therapy?

Shamanic approaches to nature therapy can include practices such as shamanic journeys, plant spirit medicine, and rituals designed to connect with nature and promote healing.

What are some case studies of nature therapy?

Examples of nature therapy case studies include forest therapy for depression, beach therapy for anxiety, and wilderness therapy for addiction.

How can nature therapy be incorporated into therapy sessions?

Nature therapy can be incorporated into therapy sessions by incorporating outdoor activities into the session, such as walking or gardening. Therapy sessions can also take place in natural settings, such as parks or forests.

What tools and techniques are used in nature therapy?

Tools and techniques used in nature therapy can include mindfulness practices, meditation, breathing exercises, and journaling. Outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and gardening may also be used.

What is the relationship between nature therapy and holistic healing?

Nature therapy is often viewed as a holistic approach to healing, as it takes into account the physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of human experience. By connecting with nature, individuals can promote overall wellness and holistic healing.


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