Caught up in the technical demands of modern living, we can all-too-easily become estranged from our sensuous selves, disconnected from the soil, trees, rain and sunshine so essential to life on this planet. If we can but pause and come back into our bodies, we may recover our place among the rest-of-nature. We are not so separate and alone, but more like nodal points within a complex, interconnected planetary network. Often we find an opportunity for considerable healing in resuscitating our primary bond with the Earth, our home, once we are willing to accept our mortal limitations within the context of a greater living whole.

The practice of ecopsychotherapy combines the therapeutic support of conventional psychotherapy with the benefits of connecting with the rest of nature. Ecopsychotherapy encourages people to develop greater awareness of their own nature, their relationships with each other and their environmental habitat. If 'ecology' is concerned with the interrelationships of living systems and 'psychotherapy' seeks to bring unrealized and dis-integrated aspects of our being into awareness, then ecopsychotherapy is concerned with how we locate ourselves in this more-than-human universe.

Spending time outside means we experience ourselves in a wider and more systemic context. We soon begin to question the tacit assumptions that humans are separate and rediscover our place in an ecology of diversity. Renewing our vital bonds with the Earth, can begin a process of healing often-painful splits from our physical and emotional bodies, and relief from repetitive cycles of anxious thinking.

From the wonder of a sunrise to the silent cathedral of a forest, the simple practice of paying attention to life as it moves in and around us, offers an invitation to value to our own existence a little bit more. Making time to be fully present each day can help each one of us to engage the right hemisphere of our brains, connecting to a more inclusive sense of existence and life-affirming consciousness. For me, such presence represents a spiritual state of being. 

Research* has shown that spending time outside in green spaces offers distinct mental health benefits, particularly with reducing depression, stress and anxiety:

  • A study by Mind showed that walking in nature reduced depression for 71% of participants as compared to the 45% reported from walking in a shopping mall
  • Being outside increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us to feel calm and relaxed.
  • Contact with nature reduces our stress levels within minutes. Blood pressure and heart rate is lowered, stress hormones and cortisol are reduced, and our metabolism slows.
  • Improved mood and emotional state in relation to self-reported anger, fatigue, anxiety, sadness
  • Increased self-esteem, confidence, social inclusion, motivation, meaningful activity, energy

(*eg Mind 2007, Mind 2013, Natural England 2016, Faculty of Public Health Briefing Statement 2010, DEFRA Evidence Statement 2017)