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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Eco-therapy is really an umbrella term for...

Hi Everyone.

I thought I would share with you what a friend of mine has written on his web site. It is a view that I subscribe to as well.

"Eco-therapy is really an umbrella term for a whole variety of nature-based therapies which utilise an experiential connection with nature as a major part of the therapeutic process and is a relatively new in the field of therapy, but one which has many ancient roots, and as such, it draws its ideas from both modern and ancient’s practices. Unlike us, our ancestors would have seen little or no separation between themselves and the natural world they lived in.

Many native cultures today still live in a harmonious relationship with nature, interacting with nature's rhythms, to sustain and heal, physically, mentally and spiritually. In native cultures, the shaman would in effect be the equivalent of our modern doctor, counsellor and psychotherapist.

The nature-based healing practices of many native cultures are now being heavily researched and integrated with modern therapeutic practices under the umbrella term of 'Eco-therapy.' It is a selection of these practices that will be used during my workshops and one-to-one nature based therapy sessions.

Why do we need nature-based therapy?
Western society has become more and more industrialised and urbanised. People in industrialised nations now spend more than 90% of their lives indoors. Our time spent outside, surrounded by nature, is estimated at only 1% - 5%. As a modern society we have become increasingly disconnected from the natural world.

For millennia we have existed in a very close relationship with the natural world, and have been intrinsically connected to the rhythms of our natural environment, from our water and food, to the changing of the seasons. Human evolution has been so closely intertwined with our environment that our need for a relationship with nature must reside in our very genes. Our genetic make-up has barely changed over the last 10000 years: an almost insignificant change of 0.005%. Therefore it would seem that despite our modern society and technological advancements, we are still genetically hard-wired to need to co-exist in close relationship with the natural environment.

As humans we seem to have an innate need to be close to nature and living things. We seem drawn, almost unconsciously, to activities which involve the natural environment. Research suggests human identity, emotional well-being, and personal fulfilment depend on our relationship with nature. Most people are already aware of the beneficial psychological effects of simply being on a beach, paddling in a stream, or walking in a forest or the mountains. I'm sure it is no accident that we are drawn to areas of natural beauty when taking our holidays. The human need for nature is not just linked to use of its resources but it also has an influence on our emotional state, thought processes and even spiritual well-being.

Many researchers now believe that conflicts can arise between our modern society's disconnection from the natural world and our in-built need to relate to it, creating a series of internal mental conflicts, which can give rise to emotional, behavioural and addictive problems. Given our seemingly in-built requirement for this interaction with the natural world for our physical and mental well-being, it would appear that there is a strong need for us to finds ways of re-integrating nature back into our lives, so that we can redress the balance.

A Solution
Mankind's use of nature to enhance well-being, physically, mentally and spiritually, has been around probably as long as humans have existed. It is only in more recent times, largely due to industrialisation and urbanisation, that man has become more and more disconnected and isolated from the natural world. In our modern society, that in-built need for relationship with nature has become disrupted, leaving us unbalanced and open to a variety of mental and emotional problems.

Research has shown that just spending time outdoors in green space can have significant benefits on your mental well-being. This can be as simple as spending some time gardening, or sitting in your local park, or spending quality time with a pet, or going for a walk in the countryside. Eco-therapies such as Wilderness Therapy, Pet-Assisted Therapy, Equine-Assisted Therapy, Natural Awareness, Green Therapy, Horticultural Therapy and Walking Therapy, all take this concept much further by actively utilising a connection with nature as part of the therapeutic process to enhance your psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

Eco-therapy and Traditional Talking Therapies
Compared to many traditional talking therapies, eco-therapy is often focused much more heavily on experiential learning. Participants learn through engagement, and immersing themselves in the environment and activities, as well as by talking about and sharing their insights and experiences."

The aim is to help you to...
  • Challenge your perceived limitations and unhelpful thought patterns, and develop greater awareness of your own strengths, through the use of the natural environment and challenging nature-based activities.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of how you relate to others, yourself, and your life, by reflecting on any symbolic or metaphorical relationships between the nature-based activities and your own life
  • Process your new understandings and learning’s through sharing thoughts and reflections in a relaxed, safe, constructive, supportive, non-judgemental and respectful environment
  • Integrate your new learning’s and positive resources so that they become available in your everyday life
Just some of the benefits reported by previous participants:
  • Building trust, both in yourself and others
  • Promoting confidence and self-esteem
  • Lifting mood and reduce depression
  • Reduction of anxiety and stress
  • Helping to deal with anger
  • Enhanced motivation
  • Promotion of respect for oneself, others and nature
  • Improvement in communication skills
  • Improvement in psychological and spiritual health and well-being
  • Promotion of team building and relationship building skills
  • Learning to be in the here and now
  • Connecting to a sense of wonder
  • Putting your life into perspective
  • Encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their own actions
  • Developing independence and creativity
  • Improved problem solving and life skills
  • Learning that you can and do achieve things you never thought possible
Who might eco-therapy be suitable for?
People who...
  • like the outdoors
  • have an interest in nature
  • are perhaps interested in bushcraft skills
  • have an interest in environmental issues
  • enjoy camping / walking / biking / climbing / other outdoor activities
  • want to learn to feel more relaxed, balanced and centred
  • perhaps wish to develop more awareness of their thoughts and behaviours
  • need to develop trust and belief in themselves or others
  • would like to learn to change how they relate to nature, themselves and others
  • would like to develop their natural intuition / listen to their heart / gut instinct
  • want to develop a connection with the spirit of nature (spirit in a non-religious sense)
  • already feel a deep connection with the spirit of nature
  • maybe follow a nature-based spiritual path (druid, pagan or shaman)
  • wouldn't normally feel comfortable visiting a counsellor
  • prefer to learn by doing and being
  • want to try something different
Nigel Magowan BSc (Hons) - Inner Changes

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