An Emerging Field
When ecopsychology is mentioned to people the usual response is, “eco-what?”
The term was only coined in 1992 by Theodore Roszak and is still largely unknown within the world.
As an emerging field of psychology there’s still intense debate about what ecopsychology is. Its roots lie in deep ecology, experiential learning, wilderness experiences, environmental activism, environmental psychology and spiritual philosophy and practice.
The NatureProcess is based upon the fundamental assumptions within ecopsychology:
- The Earth is a living system and human beings are fundamentally interconnected with the Earth.
- The current disconnect between humanity and nature, which is a key element of civilization, is the root of our personal, social and environmental challenges.
- There is an innate drive within humans to live in harmony with the natural world and its rhythms.
- We can learn about our relationship with nature not just from science but also from spiritual teachings, ancient knowledge and indigenous wisdom.
- When we connect to nature we remember the truth that we are nature and experience a new way of living with ourselves and with the natural world around us.
In addition, The NatureProcess is also grounded in the growing body of scientific evidence that shows over 67 benefits of spending time in Nature.
A 2015 journal article published in the Ecosystem Services highlights important studies that show how beneficial it can be for humans to spend time in Nature.
This is the most comprehensive list of benefits of connecting with Nature that we’ve seen.
For the purposes of this article, “nature is defined broadly here to include plants and other living things, natural and semi-natural areas including coastlines and mountains, parks, forests, wildlife sanctuaries, views of seascapes and relatively undeveloped landscapes.” (p5)
The positive effects on mental processes and behaviors are:
- Psychological well-being
- Attention restoration/perceived restorativeness
- Decreased depression, dejection, anger, aggression, frustration, hostility, stress
- Increased self-esteem
- Positive/improved mood
- Reduced anxiety and tension
- Increased prosocial behaviour/improved behaviour
- Increased opportunities for reflection
- Increased vitality and vigour/decreased fatigue
- Increased creativity
- Increased happiness
- Increased calmness, comfort and refreshment
- Improved body image for women
- Reduced ADHD in children
- Improved emotion, social health of children; self-worth
- Improved quality of life
The positive effects on cognitive function or ability are:
- Attentional restoration
- Reduced mental fatigue
- Reduced confusion
- Improved academic performance/education/learning opportunities
- Improved cognitive function
- Improved cognitive function in children
- Improved productivity/ability to perform tasks/positive workplace attitude
The positive effects on physical function and/or physical health are:
- Better general health
- Perceived health/well-being
- Reduced illness/cough/mortality/sick leave
- Stress reduction/less stress-related illness/improved physiological functioning
- Reduced cortisol levels (indicative of lower stress)
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced mortality from circulatory and respiratory disease
- Reduced headaches/pain
- Reduced mortality due to income deprivation
- Reduced mortality from stroke
- Reduced COPD, upper respiratory tract infections, asthma, other inflammatory disorders and intestinal disease
- Reduced obesity
- Faster healing/recovery from surgery/illness/trauma
- Improved addiction recovery
- Reduced cardiovascular and respiratory disease
- Reduced pulse/heart rate
- Decreased sympathetic (fight or flight response) nerve activity
- Increased parasympathetic (relax and enjoy) nerve activity
- Increased levels of natural killer cells and anti-cancer proteins
- Decreased blood glucose levels in diabetes patients
- Decreased type 2 diabetes
- Increased physical activity
- Reduced exposure to pollution
- Increased longevity
- Better health of children
- Reduced preterm birth and low birth weight
- General health/convalescence/better health near coasts
The potential to reduce the incidence of infectious disease is:
- Reduction in spread/amplification/of some infectious diseases includding some zoonotic (can be passed from animals to humans) diseases
The positive effects at individual, community or national level are:
- Increased/facilitated social interaction
- Enables social empowerment
- Reduced aggression, crime rates, violence, fear
- Enables interracial interaction
- Enhances social cohension and social support
The positive effects on cultural and spiritual well-being are:
- Aesthetic appreciation
- Increased inspiration
- Enhanced spiritual well-being
- Increased recreational satisfaction
The material goods and benefits are:
- Supply of food, raw materials, medicines, and other values
- Contribution to biomedical advances
- Increased value of property/housing; money
- Economic value of recreation
The personal and community ability to withstand impacts and remain healthy are:
- Sustainability/pro-environment awareness and behavior
- Supply of ecosystem services critical for human health and well-being
- Supply of ecosystem services that support communities and enable community resilience.