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July 1, 2012

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

– John Burroughs

The main premise of ecopsychology is that while today the human mind is shaped by the modern social world, it is adapted to the natural environment in which it evolved. (Roszack, Theodore (1993). “A new therapy [Letter to the editor]”. BioScience 34 (2): 3.)

According to the “biophilia hypothesis” of biologist E.O. Wilson, human beings have an innate instinct to connect emotionally with nature (Wilson, E. O., (1995). The Biophilia Hypothesis. Island Press. ), particularly the aspects of nature that recall what evolutionary psychologists have termed the environment of evolutionary adaptiveness, the natural conditions that the human species evolved to inhabit.

Certain researchers propose that an individual’s connection to nature can improve their interpersonal relationships and emotional wellbeing.( An integral part of this practice is to remove psychotherapy, and the individual, from the interior of office buildings and homes and place them outdoors (Roszack, Theodore. “The nature of sanity”. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 8, 2012.).

According to the precepts of ecopsychology, a walk in the woods or a city park is refreshing because it is what humans evolved to do. Psychologists such as Roger Ulrich, Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, Frances Kuo and others have studied the beneficial effects of inhabiting natural settings and of looking at pictures of landscapes on the human psyche. Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder discusses in detail how the exposure of children to nature can assist in treating mental disorders, including attention deficit disorder (Review of book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Reed Business Information. Retrieved March 8, 2012).

Yours truly with R.L. Stevenson Elementary students in Muir Woods National Monument

Certain indigenous cultures have developed methods of psychotherapy involving the presence of trees, rivers, and astronomical bodies. (Roszack, Theodore. “The nature of sanity”. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 8, 2012.)

Ecopsychology also proposes that without the influence of nature, humans are prone to a variety of delusions, and that to some degree life in the wild forms the basis for human sanity and optimal psychological development. The topic is explored in detail Paul Shepard’s book Nature and Madness. It is also proposed that separation from outdoor contact causes a loss of sensory and information-processing ability that was developed over the course of human evolution, which was spent in direct reciprocity with the environment. (Roszack, Theodore. “The nature of sanity”. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 8, 2012.)

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

– John Muir

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