Eco-Psychology: Connecting with Nature

by Karin Marcus

There is something very special about walking in a forest, entering the silent sanctuary of a pine grove or just sitting in the cooling shade of a tree’s expansive branches. Take a walk in the woods and you’ll find your breathing become deeper, your senses satiated.

Researchers have demonstrated a physiological benefit of spending time in a forest. In 2004, Japan’s National Land Afforestation Promotion Organization found concrete evidence that a forest stroll had beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate and the immune system. The study further determined that people who even just viewed forest scenery for 20 minutes had a 13 percent lower blood concentration of the stress hormone cortisol.

And now the psychological benefits are gaining long overdue recognition with the new field of eco-psychology.

The basic idea of eco-psychology is that humankind’s disconnect with nature is a central contributing factor to most emotional woes. Eco-psychologists believe in a deeply bonded and reciprocal relationship between humans and nature. They hold that our separation from the natural world leads to human suffering and environmental degradation. Most importantly, eco-psychologists believe the connection between humans and nature is healing for both.

Simply put, eco-psychology urges us to get outdoors and enjoy nature’s bounty. Not only will you feel better but you’ll probably also become a better steward for the world.

Karin Marcus is a certified coach and retreat leader. She can be reached at October 2013.

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