Ecopsychology (or ecological psychology) is the study of human’s interaction with the natural environment.
Ecopsychology aims to promote an ecologically and psychologically healthy lifestyle, by merging the ecological perspectives into daily living, advocating environmental awareness. The environment in which we live significantly influences our thoughts, feelings, emotions and attitudes, which in turn shapes our personality. It is well documented that human rights are ultimately associated with ecological rights. Inattention to the environmental world causes a violation of rights for food, shelter, health and thus the right to satisfy the basic requirements of a living being (Saro Wiwa, 2009). Though human beings are a part of the world’s ecosystem, both are interlinked to each other and interdependent – one cannot live without the other as well.
In the early 1990s, a psychologist, as well as an ecology practitioner Theodore Roszak, perceived a connection between ecology and psychology. He then researched on few psychological variables including grief, shame, anger, fear, sadness and worked those with nature to understand the results and responses in depth. This led him to develop a therapy called Ecotherapy or green therapy, in which people perform physical activities in a natural setting to gain awakening experiences and increase the interaction with nature. He presented that ‘Nature heals the individual’s unconscious sufferings and restore the natural psyche’. Later with this base, many researchers and eco-therapists studied on mindful attachment with nature. Ecotherapy is evidenced by a variety of approaches – wilderness therapy, body movement therapy, nature meditation, forest bathing, green view and exposure, horticulture therapy, involvement in conservation activities and animal-assisted treatment. Many studies have proved that the construct of connectedness to nature has resulted in numerous positive psychological outcomes (Mayer and Frantz 2004).
Spending time with nature and associating with a green space assists in improving the conditions of chronic ailments such as hypertension, asthma, cardiovascular disorders and enhances the respiratory, circulatory functioning and also regulates hormonal shifts; subdues psychological conditions such as stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness (Valentine Seymour, 2016). Staying close to nature and inhaling the fresh air makes people feel livelier, balances emotional ups and downs, uplifts mood, promotes calmness, creates sensory awareness, improves attention, concentration, memory, cognitive functioning by alleviating mental fatigue; increases resilience, self-esteem thereby providing energy and acts as a catalyst to happiness.
People who live near a green surrounding tend to be 24% more physically active, happy and healthy when compared with those living in an indoor, sedentary, urban, modern lifestyle. Not establishing a strong connection with the ecosystem affects the physical strength and causes vitamin D deficiency diseases such as asthma, short-sightedness and rickets in children (Miller 2005).
Ecopsychology goes in hand with few other disciplines which deal with the human-nature relationship. It includes ecology, environmental action and sustainability, social anthropology, human geography and eco-philosophy.
In recent years, the rapid ecological changes like natural disasters, technical disasters, genuine and human-induced climatic crisis and environmental degradation sustaining for an extended period, along with other socio-ecological changes influences the health and well being of the population either directly or by indirect means (Chowdhury, 2012). These damages can be repaired and nourished by eco-psychological concepts. This alteration immensely increases the scope of ecopsychology as well.
Instead of spending overtime ‘on-screen’, train your mind to spend more quality time ‘in green’.
Chowdhury AN and Jadhav, Sushrut, (2012) Eco-psychiatry: Culture, Mental Health and Ecology with Special Reference to India. 10.5005/jp/books/11688_52.
Mayer, F. S., & Frantz, C. M., (2004) The connectedness to nature scale: A measure of an individual’s feeling in community with nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24, 503 - 515.
Miller, J R., (2005) Biodiversity conservation and the extinction of experience, Trends Ecol. Evol. 20, 430-434.
Saro Wiwa K (2009), Wellbeing- The dignity of human happiness