What are Ecopsychology and Ecotherapy?
Ecopsychology focuses on our connection to nature and the environment in which we all live. This universally shared human nature connection is known as Biophilia and may be defined as humankind’s innate love of life and our affinity for other life forms. It sustains our very existence. Ecotherapy is the applied practice of ecopsychology.
Each session is conducted in nature. This may take form as a walk in your favorite park, a stroll around a nearby lake or through your favorite gardens, walking on the beach, or just sitting under a tree. It can take place wherever you feel relaxed out in the natural environment.
What are the benefits of ecotherapy?
When I first began my studies in ecopsychology, it was a little known field to the mental health community and based primarily on fuzzy logic. Since that time it has grown to involve a multitude of scientific studies showing quantifiable results for its power of healing body, mind, and spirit.
One study from 2007 done in the UK compared the mental state of depressed individuals who took a walk in a park outdoors and a walk inside a shopping center. This study showed the following:
- 71 percent of the group who took a walk in the park reported that their levels of depression decreased, compared to only 45 percent of the group who walked inside the shopping center.
- 22 percent of the group who walked in the shopping center reported their depression levels increasing.
The same study also showed that:
- 71 percent of the participants who walked in the park reported feeling less tense, compared to 50 percent of those who walked in the shopping center.
- Additionally, a whopping 90 percent of participants who walked in the park reported an increased self-esteem, compared to only 44 percent of the participants who walked in the shopping center.
In "Can a Stroll in the Park Replace the Psychiatrist’s Couch?", Ferris Jabr writes:
In the past few years, some ecopsychologists have made significant strides in adding scientific rigor to their field. What their research suggests so far is that even subtle interactions with nature provide a range of cognitive benefits, including elevated mood, enhanced memory, and decreased stress. Staring out a window at pretty scenery can significantly lower one’s heart rate, for example, and some studies even indicate that hospital windows with views of nature can facilitate healing. What’s more, nature provides measurably greater benefits than both manmade environments and simulations of nature. Research demonstrates that walking through the city can tax our attention, whereas a part restores our concentration and can even improve our performance on tests of memory.