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Certain researchers propose that an individual's connection to nature can improve their interpersonal relationships and emotional wellbeing. An integral part of this practice is to remove psychotherapy, and the individual, from the interior of office buildings and homes and place them outdoors. According to the precepts of ecopsychology, a walk in the woods or a city park is refreshing because it is what humans evolved to do. Psychologists such as Roger Ulrich, Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, Frances Kuo and others have studied the beneficial effects of inhabiting natural settings and of looking at pictures of landscapes on the human psyche. Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder discusses in detail how the exposure of children to nature can assist in treating mental disorders, including attention deficit disorder.
Another premise of ecopsychology is that steps taken to accept and notice nature can sharpen the senses and help people cultivate new skills. For example, the ability to track and navigate through a wilderness is improved if nature is noticed and accepted rather than feared. Similarly, ecopsychology proposes that sailors who appreciate the sea gain a keen sense for breeze directions.
Reasons to embrace nature
Ecopsychology explores how to develop emotional bonds with nature It considers this to be worthwhile because when nature is explored and viewed without judgement, it gives the sensations of harmony, balance, timelessness and stability. Ecopsychology largely rejects reductionist views of nature that focus upon rudimentary building blocks such as genes, and that describe nature as selfish and a struggle to survive. Ecopsychology considers that there has been insufficient scientific description and exploration of nature, in terms of wildness, parsimony, spirituality and emotional ties. For example, parsimony is the best way to produce an evolutionary tree of the species (cladistics), suggesting that parsimonious adaptations are selected. Yet today, the brain is often seen as complicated and governed by inherited mind modules, rather than being a simple organ that looks for parsimony within the influences of its surroundings, resulting in the compaction in minds of a great diversity of concepts.
Cultures that embrace nature
In its exploration of how to bond with nature, ecopsychology is interested in the examples provided by a wide variety of ancient and modern cultures that have histories of embracing nature. Examples include aboriginal, pagan, Buddhist, and Hindu cultures, as well as shamanism and the more recent hesychast tradition. Of interest is how identity becomes entwined with nature, so that loss of those sacred places is far more devastating to indigenous people than often understood. Native American stories, in particular, illustrate a socially recognized sense of community between humans and the natural landscape. Eastern Orthodox monks led a contemplative life deeply intertwined with nature. Other lessons include how to live sustainably within an environment and the self-sacrifices made to tolerate natural limits, such as population control or a nomadic existence that allows the environment to regenerate. Moreover, certain indigenous cultures have developed methods of psychotherapy involving the presence of trees, rivers, and astronomical bodies.
Pain and delusions without nature
Ecopsychologists have begun detecting unspoken grief within individuals, an escalation of pain and despair, felt in response to widespread environmental destruction. The field of ecopsychology intends to illustrate how evironmental disconnection functions as an aspect of existing pathologies, without creating a new category. The contention is that if a culture is disconnected from nature, then various aspects of an individual's life will be negatively impacted. It also believes that that without the influence of nature, humans are prone to a variety of delusions, and that to some degree life in the wild forms the basis for human sanity and optimal psychological development. The topic is explored in detail Paul Shepard's book Nature and Madness. It is also proposed that separation from outdoor contact causes a loss of sensory and information-processing ability that was developed over the course of human evolution, which was spent in direct reciprocity with the environment.
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