Anxiety touches all lives. To de-stress, unwind, and let go of preying fears is to appreciate something nurturing that is happening to you right now. Find just one blessing, and take it from there. It is not always easy, but even panic attacks can be avoided by finding the literal sliver lining of a puffy little cloud floating by.
In Eco-psychology, the client is looked upon as a whole organism connected fully with all of living earth, and even Cosmos, to find sustenance, support, healing, and belonging.
When anxiety is due to human interaction, and tense relationships, it can be reduced by finding common ground. The common ground, can literally be, the soil of the earth. When anxiety has a basis in trauma, or abandonment, and it comes in the form of compulsions, or panic attacks, walking outdoors, laying in grass, spending time with animals, and finding outdoor hobbies, such as swimming or hiking, all help.
Finding Common Ground:
Couples, or others, who plant seeds together, nurture them as a team, spend time invigorating their full senses, and living in the moment of those senses, often experience profound healing. This often helps if one of them, or even both, have anxiety issues.
It is the same story for inter generational conflicts. Common ground can begin with a story a parent or grandparent tells about what they remember form their childhood spent in a woods, on a farm, or even just their own garden, or park. Then the child, be they adult child or not, tells a similar story. Sometimes lost joys, sorrows, ancient grief and alienation stories erupt from this exercise, so being prepared to contain it safely is the task of the counselor present. Anxiety reduction flows from immersion of the senses.
Any relaxation activity, especially when performed out of doors, allows several factors to come into play. The first is the setting itself. When outdoors, especially on a fair day, tensions are reduced by heightening the senses. In Eco-psychology, we begin with 53 senses, (more on this in a moment), and go from there. When two or more people share the same space with singing birds, waving grass, buzzing bees, and so on, they automatically begin on common ground. The topic of a conflict is introduced, and before going further, parties are asked to share what they sense from the place and time, and what they feel grateful for physically, emotionally, mentally, and if they wish, spiritually. Then they may phrase their concern about the relationship with the understanding that no judgment of them will be assessed, and they are in a safe place with support from all present, including nature itself.
Depending upon how advanced the parties are in Eco-psychology settings, the support they are offered may be understood as initial support, in that the other party cared enough to show up, therapist support, and in an ever widening circle of belonging. They are allowed to offer what support they may feel from filtered sunlight, oxygen created by plants, the beauty of the sky, thirst quenching clouds, and so on.
The basis of comprehending healing in Eco-psychology is realizing all of us are alienated from earth when we are taught as children to exploit, rather than celebrate and cherish all natural systems. Its basis is largely in Sociobiology, which recognizes no organism exists without its environment, and every living thing co-evolved with other co-evolving organisms. Once this is understood, feeling the support provided by life striving to exist with life, in a shared balance of laws of attraction, is seen as healing.
It departs radically from traditional psychology, in that it goes far beyond the mind, yet Eco-psychology never wanders far from the consciousness. Awareness, as realized by the senses, is constantly recreated in any nature connection, and/or support activities.
Studies done with children, especially in homes with addiction, or high stress confirm that children immersed with their whole bodies, in natural settings, are far more likely to avoid addictions, anxieties, obesity, fighting and other anti-social behaviors, and symptoms of ADD, (Attention deficit Disorder, and ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.) Books, such as The Last Child in the Woods, attest to these findings and cite many more sources than can be covered in this article.
What are the fifty three senses? Fifty three senses, (and counting), are those aspects of our minds, sense organs, and bodies, that include, but are not limited to, sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. One such sense is thirst, another is sense of gravity, another is sense of reason and cogitation, and yet another is a sense of community.
Many of these are more thoroughly outlined in the books of Dr. Michael Cohen, or Project Nature Connect, a pioneer who has worked with anxiety and stress reduction in nature for over forty years. Cohen identifies these senses as attractions, called NIAL, for Naturally Intelligent Attractive Loves. He also calls them Webstrings, as they tie us to a web of inter-dependence.
Awareness of a sense of belonging is the grounding center stone of Ecopsychology. This belonging reduces anxiety symptoms.
It allows anyone who suffers from anxiety, or a related disorder, to realize that their experience of the earth is valid. Even if nothing else in their lives feels supportive, and all relationships are tinged with elements of alienation and/or abandonment, it allows that a person feels the light of the sun provides food, as does the soil. The plants and animals produce food, shelter, paper, shade, oxygen, bio-diversity and more. The minerals provide the basis for the electro-chemical basis of our physiology, and even the sun, moon, and stars create us, pull oceans, and support life on earth with beauty, belonging and natural soothing properties that are only now being thoroughly investigated.
Many spiritually inclined participants immediately recognize the Creation as made by a magnificent God, but no theology is required for Ecopsychology to work.
Ecopsychology, by this name, is somewhat new, but the healing properties and support of natural systems has been understood for many thousands of years by poets, artists, philosophers, once called Natural Philosophers, and scientists.
One of the leading Scientists who knows the gospel of nature is renown Harvard Professor E.O. Wilson, who wrote some the earliest works on Sociobiology, and coined the term, Biophilia, (love of life) in a book by that same name.
Our empirical experience of nature has been jaded since we moved indoors, nonetheless, Our empirically validated experience of being healed within nature is well documented. Natural laws, much as envisioned by Einstein, entice us to unravel her secrets to be well grounded, and to widen our circle of compassion to include not only other human beings, nations, and systems, but other organisms upon which we depend to survive, both as a species, and as individuals.