“The results of [our] disconnection from nature and nature's pace show up in therapists' and doctors' offices every day. Living under unnatural time pressures causes a myriad of psychological, social and physical ailments. Delinked from the natural rhythms of our bodies and the rest of the planet, we struggle with diminishing success to adapt to the strange mechanical and disembodied world we have created.
As a practicing psychotherapist and ecotherapist, when I see patients who are suffering from depression or anxiety I ask them to keep a time-journal in which they record the hours and minutes spent each day outside, as well as the hours spent inside in front of a screen. My clients are often shocked to realize how disassociated they have become from nature and our species' natural ways of living, and the effect this disconnection is having on their psyche. In fact, a 2007 study from the University of Essex shows that a daily "dose" of walking outside in nature can be as effective at treating mild to moderate depression as expensive antidepressant medications that can sometimes have negative side-effects.
…Ecopsychological research is now proving that reconnecting with nature and more natural living performs a host of psychological miracles, including lowering depression, improving our sense of well being, calming our anxieties, raising self-esteem and giving us a sense of belonging to the great whole of which we are a part.”
-- Linda Buzzell, from “Slow Down: How Our Fast-Paced World Is Making Us Sick”, on Alternet (www.Alternet.org), July 2, 2009. The author is co-editor of Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind (Sierra Club Books, 2009).
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We all experience stress, and virtually all of us have been through crises in our lives. That could be said to include times of “national emergency,” such as major wars and terrorist attacks, which have thankfully been rare in our country.
Recent national events including our last election – and the current crisis of leadership in Washington -- have been deeply unsettling to many of us. Many people feel a sense of insecurity regarding our country that they’ve never known. Millions of people in other countries seem worried as well for good reason. It’s hard to be very optimistic about what the coming weeks and months may bring. And since anti-science climate-change deniers have taken charge, the health of natural world and our planet’s life-support systems are now at especially high risk.
Life is inherently an uncertain and all-too-fragile phenomenon, of course. And as conscious human beings, it’s only natural for our attention to focus particularly on problems and potential threats. For many of us, in fact, worry comes all too easily.
One of the best ways to resolve problems and assuage anxieties is to take action whenever possible. Unfortunately, many external events lie beyond our personal ability to resolve them, although there are always some things we can do.
For those of you concerned about the crisis of climate change, be aware that on Saturday April 29 there will be marches in Washington, D.C. and other cities to demand action on climate change (see https://350.org/april-29-2017-lets-march/ or http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2017-2-march-april/coming-clean/mark-your-calendars-for-next-big-resistance-march-april-29).
We simply can’t bury our heads in the sand and try to ignore important national or world crises. At the same time, we all need to escape at times from the negative news of the day and the stress that bad news creates for us.
Leaving our everyday environments and traveling to hike in the natural world is taking one kind of action that won’t resolve such problems, but it can give us a breather from stress, allow us to unwind, and put us in a vastly better state of mind.
There’s evidence that doing so is capable of strengthening our immune systems, not to mention giving our spirits – if they’re sagging – a big much-needed boost.
I bring up this subject periodically because many of us (including myself) can benefit from reminders that in difficult times there are ways to restore ourselves.
Whenever any of us feel disillusioned or in despair about what’s been happening, it’s important to remember that the solace of nature is always available nearby.
This can be an essential way to take good care of ourselves in troubled times: to seek sustenance and renewal from the life-energy and beauty of the natural world.
-- Charlie Cook