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Alternative Educating Counseling and Healing With Nature

Supportive Degrees, Career Training Courses and Jobs Online.

Project NatureConnect offers distant learning that enables you to add nature-connecting methods and credentials to your skills and interests. We honor your prior training and life experience by providing grants and equivalent credit for it.

You may take accredited coursework and/or obtain a Nature-Connected Degree or Certificate in most subjects. Please vist the subject list below, then return here.

  • Increase your income.
  • Help people connect their thoughts and feelings with the grace, balance and restorative powers of nature.
  • Strengthen personal social and environmental well being.
  • Add the sunlight and beauty of the natural world to your life and community.

Visit our Homepage for complete information

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Project NatureConnect
Institute of Global Education
Organic Psychology
Special NGO Consultant, United Nations Economic and Social Council
Learn how to think like nature's self-correcting and restorative powers work

 

Nature Connected Health and Wellness Research


REPORTS:

The use of nature-connected alternative, complementary medicine in nature-healing including the spiritual, holistic, natural and energy medicine preventatives of medical science.


The effects of natural attraction activities in grant-funded, holistic courses, training and degree programs online

The evaluation of a sensory science for sustainable personal and environmental well-being.


"'Nature-deficit disorder' describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. The disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities. The nature deficit can even change human behavior in cities, which could ultimately affect their design, since longstanding studies show a relationship between the absence, or inaccessibility, of parks and open space with high crime rates, depression, and other urban maladies. Nature healing with alternative, complementary medicine and therapies are antidotes and preventatives "

- Google News Reports


"Be true to yourself. Don't be a victim of contemporary society's conquest of the dance of natural systems within and around you. If you have ever had an attractive "feel good" experience in nature, it is an undeniable fact. Learn how to further enjoy and strengthen its contribution to the well-being of yourself, society and the environment."

The Web of Life Imperative, M.J. Cohen

 

 

Doesn't nature have restorative and regenerative healing powers?

If not, how then how do natural systems create and sustain their purity, balance and peace along with their optimums of diversity and life, yet without producing garbage or pollution?

Humanity is part of nature, we consist almost entirely of the natural attraction systems that flow through our mind, body and soul.

Although we and our psyche live excessively indoor lives, extremely separated from nature, we and our psyche are nature. This means that the undeniable, purifying, self-correcting and recycling powers found in the flow of natural systems can help us heal our injured psyche if and when we genuinely reconnect it with authentic nature. As demonstrated by the restorative effects of our good experiences in nature, that connection is when the flow starts again, when we and nature help heal each other for we are united and whole, as of old. The medical science of nature-connected spiritual, holistic, natural and energy medicine helps us reestablish the flow.

Although contemporary thinking often scoffs at this nature-connected notion, others applaud the beneficial results this science produces. It is important to keep in mind that the wellness of our thinking determines our health, relationships and destiny.

Doesn't the the difference between the state of the unadulterated natural world and that of industrial society clearly show that while we suffer from warped thinking and relationships, unadulterated nature creates and sustains its own perfection that we inherit as part of nature at birth?

Think for yourself. Explain reasonably to yourself your attractive experiences in nature and the hundreds of substantiated findings, similar to those listed below, with respect to our relationship with natural systems.* Don't these studies demonstrate the value of nature-connected natural and energy medicine preventatives?

Do you think contemporary society has a bias that tends to ignore the self-correcting and restorative value of nature's dance, in and around us, so as to not impede our exploitation of nature? How much do you and those you love suffer from this deceit?

In a study, participants were randomly assigned to one of three "treatments": A walk in a natural environment, a walk in an urban environment or relaxing in a comfortable chair. At the end of each excercise, instruments indicated that people who had taken the nature walk had significantly higher scores on overall happiness and positive affect and significantly lower scores on anger/aggression. Nature walkers also performed significantly better on a cognitive performance measure.

Hartig, T., Mang M. & Evans, G.W. (1991) Restorative effects of natural environment experiences. Environment and Behavior, 23, 3-26 (Reported in Nature's Path)

Why do you think we herald stress relief pills but not connections with nature?

Please keep in mind that the Natural Attraction Ecology science of the Project NatureConnect process helps you consciously strengthen and intensify your contact with natural systems so that you can choose to think with these connections and come more into personal balance and co-creation with nature.

"As long as our thinking, learning, psychology, and consciousness are disconnected from communication with the balancing and healing powers of natural systems, the systems, and therefore we, suffer the troubles caused by our disconnection."

- Michael J. Cohen, The Web of Life Imperative

The PNC process enables you to make your visits in nature more effective in filling the void from our thinking's 99 percent disconnection from nature. Documented medical science research demonstrates that connections with nature provide the following benefits:

IMPROVEMENTS:

People help rejuvenate and improve their lives by having a pet, going for a hike, keeping a garden, or vacationing in a beautiful place.

Surgical patients have shorter hospitalizations, less need for pain medications, and fewer complaints about discomfort when they have hospital windows that overlook trees rather than brick walls.

Prisoners with cells that provided views of rolling landscapes were found to make fewer sick calls than inmates whose cell windows overlooked prison courtyards.

Pets have positive effects on patients with dementia. Even patients with impaired mental abilities are able to connect with cats or dogs.

Contemporary people who live in environments that are more natural, live longer.

Post-traumatic stress victims recover by connecting in nature to "something larger than themselves." in nature.

Nature-centered people and cultures seldom display or cause the problems that undermine industrial society.

*Irvine, K and Warber, S (2002). "Greening Healthcare: Practicing as if the Natural Environment Really Mattered" reviewed in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine September/October 2002 (Volume 8, Number 5).

 

STRESS MANAGEMENT: Three exacting physiological measures were used to assess personal stress levels before and after 120 men and women were stressed and then viewed tapes of urban or natural scenes. Individuals who viewed the natural, as opposed to the urban, scenes experienced more and complete stress recovery.

- Ulrich, R.S. &Simons, R.F.
1986 Proceedings, Environmental Design Research Association


SOCIAL AND PERSONAL BENEFITS: "Stopping to experience our natural surroundings can have social as well as personal benefits," says Richard Ryan, coauthor and professor of psychology, psychiatry and education at the University of Rochester. While the salubrious effects of nature are well documented, from increasing happiness and physical health to lowering stress, this study shows that the benefits extend to a person's values and actions. Exposure to natural as opposed to man-made environments leads people to value community and close relationships and to be more generous with money, find Ryan and his team of researchers at the University of Rochester.

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ECOTHERAPY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL DEPRESSION

TIME MAGAZINE, July 28, 2009: A new and growing group of psychologists believes that many of our modern-day mental problems, including depression, stress and anxiety, can be traced in part to society's increasing alienation from nature.  Read complete article


ATTENTION DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVE DISORDER: Spending time in "green" settings reduced ADHD symptoms in a national study of children aged 5 to 18. The study was done by Frances Kuo, PhD, and Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Activities were done inside, outside in areas without much greenery (such as parking lots), and in "greener" spots like parks, backyards, and tree-lined streets. The kids showed fewer ADHD symptoms after spending time in nature, according to their parents. Symptoms evaluated by the questionnaire included remaining focused on unappealing tasks, completing tasks, listening and following directions, and resisting distractions. "In each of 56 analyses, green outdoor activities received more positive ratings than did activities taking place in other settings," write Kuo and Taylor. It didn't matter where the children lived. Rural or urban, coastal or inland, the findings held true for all regions of the country."
American Journal of Public Health, September, 2004


OBESITY: "Being outside is the key, to the childhood obesity issue...where they can move more." said Bernard Gutin, professor of pediatrics and physiology at the Georgia Prevention Institute Medical College of Georgia. He reported to USA Today (11/16/04) that his research with 3rd graders showed that children who ate healthy snacks and engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity 70-80 minutes build more bone and muscle, greater cardiovascular fitness and add less fat than children who don't participate in such activities. An article in the LA Times notes the recognition in the scientific community that homo sapiens are born to run.

 

ADDICTION AND DISORDERS

We deny that we psychologically addict to technologies, relationships and stories that replace our inborn connections to and satisfactions from nature. Instead we experience this bonding as normal, good economics or progress.

One day at a time, most addiction treatment involves helping people resist an immediate impulse long enough for them to "remember" the long term pain. (You call another addict 24/7 if you're tempted to take become involved with your problem addiction or repeat mantras ("slogans") or prayers, get social support at meetings, receive "chips" for days of "abstinence" etc.). This is also applicable to the short term impulse gratification that deteriorates our planet by obtaining satisfactions that help break the addiction but are environmentally detrimental. In Project NatureConnect, using nature-connecting activities, you satisfy your impulses by consciously connecting them with their nurturing and restorative natural origins, with attractions found in a natural area, backyard or backcountry. This environmentally supportive connection enables you to think like nature's self-correcting and restorative powers work and gives nature added value, too. -MJC

"Yes, I agree that PNC is one of the methods whereby we can give people immediate reward experiences with environmentally healthy behavior. I have found, in leading PNC events that, just as you say, it builds a sense of community, and mutual support. Perhaps most important, it helps people learn to trust their own senses and trust in the natural world."

"Mike Cohen says we can do some of his activities with a potted plant, and I actually had one client where this was shown to be correct.

My client had been in a motor vehicle accident and had multiple injuries that prevented her from getting out and about.  She was in chronic pain and was having severe anxiety attacks. 

There was a nice potted plant in her living room (I think it was a
dieffenbachia, but I'm not sure).  I described how we are in a
mutually-supportive role with plants -- they provide us with oxygen and we provide them with CO2.  I suggested that when she was feeling anxious she should breathe with the plant, exchanging gasses and and recognize that they were being mutually supportive.  As she did so, I could see her visibly relaxing.  Within a few minutes she reported that her anxiety was gone and her pain was somewhat reduced. 

Over the next few weeks she successfully used this technique whenever she was anxious.  As her physical abilities improved she began spending time in the garden and then began gardening from her wheelchair.  Her anxiety was completely controlled without medication.

I don't know what she bonded to, but she developed a sense that the
plant (and later her garden) was her friend and that they were in a
mutually supportive relationship.  This feeling was able to help her
overcome her anxiety."

John Scull, Ph.D. Neuropsychologist

"As a school Principal, what I've learned from PNC is that a lot of our students are anxious or scared and fall into the trap of being defensive so I got a little garden indoors, in my office and the students that get behavior referrals, they come in and I teach them the process of communicating non-verbally with an attractive rock or plant of their choice and when they start talking and thinking to that plant or rock, and touching its leaves, admiring its flowers or stroking the grains of the rock itself, I ask the referral "What would your rock or plant tell you?   All of a sudden they decentralize themselves, they stop being defensive, they react to the fact that this is a living thing and they start talking honestly.  Often I ask them "How has this new friend helped you?" and they will say "I'm happier now, I'm so calmer."   Some ask if they can put the rock in their desk so when they really get stressed, really get anxious, they can stroke the rock and talk to themselves and use PNC techniques to ask permission, to appreciate, to use their senses to hear and listen, and then to thank.  When they use this process in the classroom my behavior problem students stop becoming behavior problem students because it seems to create something that fills that need for them, they no longer have to use that behavior to fill the need."

Debbie Crinzi


"I have a client I've been working with for two years. She is diagnosed with debilitating personality disorder and psychotic episodes. She is a remarkable woman. Despite having suffered profound, unbelievable and repeated trauma as a child, she remains kind, wise and powerfully committed to living a healthy life. And this is on a social security stipend that gets cut every ten minutes. She needs to decide in any given month whether she gets eggs, or gas for the car to go to healing treatments.

PNC and fifty-three senses and NIAL through nature connect have eased her in a way nothing else did (I worked with her for two years as a therapist supplementary to her main psych doc before we switched over to an educational interaction).  She is having coherent thought processes, able to do daily functions and able to grow meaningful relationships with me, nature, and a few people in her community. Nature is healing this woman and your wisdom about connecting in nature is her main self empowerment in this healing.

I know it is important to make a strong, big social impact - that is so true. And I also count each alleviation of a personal suffering for someone as about as big as any three social movements. This woman is suffering less and I feel very attracted to that for her. Thanks for your brilliance and growth of this work."

Leslie Whitcomb Ecopsychology Educator and Facilitator




A PUBLISHED COLLECTION:
More Than 300 Additional Studies

A Look at the Ecotherapy Research Evidence
- Craig Chalquist

Also available at Ecopsychology, 2009


 

PERCEPTION: Juliet Schor in Born to Buy did research with 300 children ages 10-13 to measure the effects of advertising on their mental and physical health. Kids who got ensnared in our nature-removed consumer culture were more apt to become troubled. She showed that kids begin to recognize brands at 18 months and believe brands help them express their identity by 3 years. Also that young children are not making distinctions between programming and advertising.


NATURE'S POWERS: Science Daily (Apr. 26, 2011)  Research at the  University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences shows that a walk in the park is more than just a nice way to spend an afternoon. It's an essential component for good health, according to University of Illinois environment and behavior researcher Frances "Ming" Kuo. "Through the decades, parks advocates, landscape architects, and popular writers have consistently claimed that nature had healing powers," Kuo said. "But until recently, their claims haven't undergone rigorous scientific assessment."
"Today, scientists are routinely taking into account income and other differences in their studies. So the question is no longer, do people living in greener neighborhoods have better health outcomes? (They do.) Rather, the question has become, do people living in greener neighborhoods have better health outcomes when we take income and other advantages associated with greener neighborhoods into account?" That answer is also, yes, according to Kuo.

After undergoing rigorous scientific scrutiny, Kuo says the benefits of nature still stand.  "Just as rats and other laboratory animals housed in unfit environments undergo systematic breakdowns in healthy, positive patterns of social functioning, so do people," Beyond social and environmental health, greener environments enhance recovery from surgery, enable and support higher levels of physical activity, improve immune system functioning, help diabetics achieve healthier blood glucose levels, and improve functional health status and independent living skills among older adults. By contrast, environments with less green space are associated with greater rates of childhood obesity; higher rates of 15 out of 24 categories of physician-diagnosed diseases, including cardiovascular diseases; and higher rates of mortality in younger and older adults.


THERAPY: Psychotherapy Networker is written for therapy clinicians of all types -- psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, counselors etc. In the Nov-Dec 2004 issue is "Taking Therapy Outdoors: How to Use Nature to Get Tough Cases Unstuck" by Ira Orchin, Ph.D., a Philadelphia psychologist in private practice who "leads Alaskan wilderness retreats for men and father-daughter camping adventures." He says. "While going outdoors may begin as an experiment to help shift a stuck client or to mark a transition, you're likely to be surprised by the collateral benefits that emerge."


HUGGING TREES In a recently published book, Blinded by Science, the author Matthew Silverstone, proves scientifically that trees do in fact improve many health issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), concentration levels, reaction times, depression and other forms of mental illness. He even points to research indicating a tree's ability to alleviate headaches in humans seeking relief by communing with trees.

The author points to a number of studies that have shown that children show significant psychological and physiological improvement in terms of their health and well being when they interact with plants and trees. Specifically, the research indicates that children function better cognitively and emotionally in green environments and have more creative play in green areas.


NATURE-DEFICIT DISORDER Richard Louv, a child-advocacy expert describes in his book Last Child in the Woods that for the first time in history, children's direct experience in nature is disappearing-with disastrous results resulting in nature deficit disorder. Studies conducted within the past ten years indicate that direct contact with nature can be powerful therapy for maladies such as depression, obesity, and attention-deficit disorder; that outdoor play reduces stress, builds self-confidence and increases children's creatiivity; and that nature-based education improves test scores and develops critical thinking and decision-making skills. "Direct experience in nature may be as important to children as good nutrition and adequate sleep" yet our society's children are approaching a frightening level of nature-deficit."


THE MC'BURGER EFFECT

Our natural sense of taste is part of nature's wisdom. In congress with our other natural senses, including our sense of reason, it intelligently determines and conveys what and when something may be permissible to eat.

When unadulterated and in conjunction with each other, our 53 natural senses enable us to sensibly register and think with the balanced perfection of the global life community.

- Reconnecting With Nature


INFLUENCE OF PROFIT: August 6, 2007: Researchers gave a group of 3-5 year old children two identical servings of many different kinds of food. The only difference between the two servings was that one was wrapped in a McDonald's wrapper, the other in a plain wrapper.

Overwhelmingly, the children said the identical food placed in the McDonalds' wrapper tasted better. Their psyche had been misled. At this early age, their natural senses and sensibilities had already been prejudicially socialized by the money-making story and image conveyed on the McDonalds' wrapper.  That story, along with its questionable values and effect, had distorted and stressed the children's natural ability to think and feel appropriately with respect to their inborn sense of taste.  Their healthy and vital attachment to food had been polluted and disturbed.  They had been robbed of part of their natural intelligence and its joy.


PROFIT FROM BRIBERY: Elementary schools were given a $14,000 contribution for teaching materials when the school placed a "Koko Kola" dispensing machine in the school instead of a machine from some other companies.  The latter had offered a smaller contribution for this privilege.  Profitable sales for the year was not the motive.  Rather it was to establish familiarity and rewarding experiences with the "Koko Koola" logo. Once that bond took place, advertising would continually reinforce it and produce a lifetime of "Koko Kola" sales.

"Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man,"

- Jesuit motto from Francis Xavier.


MENTAL ILLNESS: Living near a 'green space' has health benefits. Research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health says the impact is particularly noticeable in reducing rates of mental ill health.
The annual rates of 15 out of 24 major physical diseases were also significantly lower among those living closer to green spaces.
One environmental expert said the study confirmed that green spaces create 'oases' of improved health around them.
The researchers from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam looked at the health records of 350,000 people registered with 195 family doctors across the Netherlands. The annual prevalence of anxiety disorders for those living in a residential area containing 10% of green space within a one kilometre (0.62 miles) radius of their home was 26 per 1000 whereas for those living in an area containing 90% of green space it was 18 per 1000. Populations were 21% less likely to suffer from depression in the greener areas.
Dr Jolanda Maas of the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, said: "It clearly shows that green spaces are not just a luxury but they relate directly to diseases and the way people feel in their living environments."


PROJECT NATURECONNECT PARTICIPANT: "I'm Andy Prescott. Poet. Wombed in Nature disconnection. Mom smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. As did Dad. He was also emotionally distant.

"Let him cry," the doctor who delivered me told my parents --as doctors did in 1953-- when I wouldn't stop. After 2 weeks of this, doc figured out I wasn't getting milk from mom. 6' 2'' and 143 lbs. when I got to high school. A type-one (insulin-dependent) diabetic at age 18. Diagnosed Bipolar with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and panic attacks, unable to sleep in 2002. Sex and love addict since age 12. First poem: "Let's Get Drunk Together."

Unable to stop acting-out in my addictions even after 3 inpatient treatment-centers lasting a year and a half--and a care-home, I returned home to get my papers out of storage to finish my book. I came upon a brochure for Project NatureConnect I had gotten at our local Ecology Park. I'd ordered our RECONNECTING WITH NATURE text and HOW NATURE WORKS. I noticed a very high addiction recovery rate was reported for severely at-risk students who'd taken the first online course. Unheard of.

I took the "Orientation Course." Obtained the longest sobriety ever. Developed the best blood sugars of any of my doctor's patients: Averaging 130. Reduced my anti-psychotic, sleeping-disorder, panic attack medication from 600 mg./night to 50 mg./night. No longer required my Lamictol Bipolar medication.. Currently getting the most positive reactions of ANY of the artists in city-wide Art Extravaganzas. Beyond all my wildest dreams are coming true."



INTELLIGENCE AND IQ
 A SANE study reported in the Journal of Organic Psychology and Natural Attraction Ecology consists of strengthening the ecointelligence of children and adults and observing the effects on the general intelligence and IQ of participants in the study. This was accomplished by adding Project NatureConnect Natural Attraction Ecology activities to the curriculum of the study group of students and teachers.

Findings from three years of observation showed some type of main effect within general intelligence that was attributed to ecointelligence removing, shifting or recycling impurities in general intelligence and IQ.  In children and adults this translated into an intelligence of understanding and adaptability in their human-built and natural environments.

SANE study results included:

  • - Parent-child interactions were more respectful and kind while teacher-child interactions reflected curiosity, wonder, respect and interest in the teacher's or leader's instructions.
  • - Impulsive and distracting behaviors in children decreased...they listened more and observed more and showed more compassion, help, acceptance and generosity including with individual challenges.
  • - There was more interest in natural attraction behaviors, respect, and gratitude along with desire for and keen nonverbal connections to nature.
  • - Classroom interactions became less stressful with less impulsive and distractive behaviors and more willingness to work at daily tasks such as math or writing after nature-contact moments.


NEW DIRT ABOUT HEALTH: Playing house, collecting Barbie dolls, and wearing dresses are common acts of raising a young girl in our society. But according to a recent study, it could be detrimental to their health.
Sharyn Clough, a researcher at Oregon State University, has discovered that women who have higher rates of allergies, and other autoimmune disorders are a result of being too clean. In other words, parents who let their children run amok in dirt or mud tend to have healthier kids.

"Look, if you're okay having your little boy play in the dirt, you should be okay having your little girl play out in the dirt as well," Clough explained.

Women infected with the auto-immune disease Lupus outnumber their male counterparts 9-to-1. While there isn't a concise explanation as to why the disease occurs more frequently in women, the expectation for young girls to stay cleaner than boys may provide a reason.

"Little boys are more often than little girls encouraged to play in the dirt. Little girls are dressed in clothing that's not supposed to get dirty," added Clough.

Being exposed to high amounts of bacteria found in dirt can actually help build a healthier immune system.

"There is some thought that getting exposed to things, even parasites and different microbial elements in the dirt, might actually improve the overall immunity that a child develops," said Dr. Aoi Mizushima of Providence Medical Group Family Practice.


INFLUENCE OF MONEY:  Chinese students came into the lab and were told they would be participating in a test of finger dexterity. One group was given a pile of Chinese currency to count. Another group was given blank pieces of paper to count.

Then, some of the students were asked to put their fingers in bowls of water heated to 122 degrees Fahrenheit and rate how uncomfortable it felt via the natural sense of temperature.

The subjects who had earlier been counting money and had their hands in the painfully hot water reported that the water didn't feel so hot to them, compared to people who had counted slips of paper.

The experiment and related ones are described in a research paper titled The Symbolic Power of Money, published in the journal Psychological Science. Combined with earlier work, it maps out a curious connection. As far as our brain's concerned, money can act as a substitute for social acceptance, reducing social discomfort and, by extension, physical discomfort and even pain.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111579154&ft=1&f=1001

 

ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS: A study of urban American adults by Nancy Wells and Kristi Lekies of Cornell University sheds some light on environmental attitudes. Wells and Lekies found that children who play unsupervised in the wild before the age of 11 develop strong environmental ethics. Children exposed only to structured hierarchical play in the wild-through, for example, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, or by hunting or fishing alongside supervising adults -do not. To interact humbly with nature we need to be free and undomesticated in it. Otherwise, we succumb to hubris in maturity. The fact that few children enjoy free rein outdoors anymore bodes poorly for our future decision-makers.


REDUCED STRESS AND ANXIETY: The evidence of the effectiveness of  outdoor and wilderness programs is demonstrated both from personal anecdotes as well as from research studies conducted by Aspen Education Group with clients and parents at admission, discharge and during 6 and 12 month follow-ups. The research indicated that attending Aspen Outdoor Behavioral Health programs reduced stress, depression and anxiety in teens and that there was continued reduction at the 6-month follow-up assessment. Substance-related issues were reduced from the “significant to elevated” range to a “normal” range upon graduation and up to 12-months. Additionally, the organization Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative (OBHRC) has a comprehensive collection of research and data on the positive and healing effects of wilderness therapy www.obhrc.org. PSYCHOLOGY TODAY

 

REDUCE DEPRESSION: Country walks can help reduce depression and raise self-esteem according to research published today, leading to calls for "ecotherapy" to become a recognised treatment for people with mental health problems. Ecotherapy: the green agenda for mental health is the first study looking at how "green" exercise specifically affects those suffering from depression.

According to Mind, England and Wales's leading mental health charity, it produced "startling" results proving the need for ecotherapy to be considered a proper treatment option.

The study by the University of Essex compared the benefits of a 30-minute walk in a country park with a walk in an indoor shopping centre on a group of 20 members of local Mind associations.

After the country walk, 71% reported decreased levels of depression and said they felt less tense while 90% reported increased self-esteem.

This was in contrast to only 45% who experienced a decrease in depression after the shopping centre walk, after which 22% said they actually felt more depressed.

Some 50% also felt more tense and 44% said their self-esteem had dropped after window-shopping at the centre.

The university also conducted a second study, asking 108 people with various mental health problems about their experiences of ecotherapy. A massive 94% said green activities had benefited their mental health and lifted depression while 90% said the combination of nature and exercise had the greatest effect.

 

DENIAL: In Reconnecting With Nature, Michael J. Cohen shows how our "normal" nature deficit leaves us feeling unfulfilled and, unaware of this defeciency, we seek and, for a profit, are fed negative news in the media. Such news conveys that the world is dangerous. This makes us feel better because our intellect believes it knows why we feel bad: we are helpless victims of a dysfunctional world. "This clarifies why the media harps upon the negative and excludes the nature-connecting antidotes, remedies and preventatives readily available at Project NatureConnect." says Cohen. "It is as if establishing a mutually supportive relationship with authentic nature is an illicit affair. We ignore the psychologically based medical science of nature healing that uses alternative, complementary nature-connected antidotes including spiritual, natural and energy medicine preventatives."

Cohen demonstrates that our exploitive prejudice against nature symptomizes our fear of the unknown. That fear results from the extreme separation of our thinking from nature's intelligent grace, balance and restorative ways. His survey and empirically based testimonials show that we can reduce most of our dysfunctions and vastly improve our personal and global life community relationships by learning and teaching the simple process of genuinely connecting our thinking to how nature works.

 

RECOVERY "The students bonded as a community. They also bonded to a trashed natural area near their forthcoming new school. To protect the area's integrity and availability for future NSTP Natural Attraction Ecology activities, these "incapable" youngsters successfully cleaned up, weeded and replanted it, wrote environmental protection grants, and effectively presented their work to Education Boards and Administrators who were intent on paving the area as a parking lot.

In addition to their improved mental health test scores, every students' attendance and academic progress improved while they were in this project.

The student's sensed that the natural area, like their nature, wanted to recover from the abuse it received from society. They said that, like them, it had been: 'hurt, molested, invaded and trespassed,' 'It wanted to become healthy or die.' 'It felt trashed and overwhelmed.' 'It had no power, it needed a fix or help to recover.' They wrote:

'This wilderness community is being choked by alien plants and stressed by pollution, abandonment and major loss. We, too, are being choked by drugs and alien stories that pollute our natural self. We feel abandoned by our society, treated like garbage, and cut off from nature which fills us with grief. By protecting and nurturing this ecosystem we find the strength to open our minds, hearts, and souls for the survival of our Mother Earth and ourselves.'"

Kurtland Davies, Ph.D., Counselor



CREATE UNITY A series of studies suggests immersion in nature "brings individuals closer to others, whereas human-made environments orient goals toward more selfish  or self-interested ends," according to a paper posted on the Web site of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.  "These findings suggest that full contact with nature can have humanizing effects," the researchers conclude. "Our results suggest that, to the extent our links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with each other."


RESTORE HEALTH An editorial published in a special issue of the British Medical Journal (November 26, 2005) claims that ecotherapy - restoring health through contact with nature - could be beneficial for children with emotional and behavioural problems. The BMJ points to a number of studies that show ecotherapy can help these kids overcome social isolation. "Partnerships between healthcare providers and nature organizations to share and exchange expertise could create new policies that recognize the interdependence between healthy people and healthy ecosystems", writes author Dr Ambra Burls.



OBESITY: In the first study to look at the effect of neighborhood greenness on inner city children's weight over time, researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the University of Washington report that higher neighborhood greenness is associated with slower increases in children's body mass over a two year period, regardless of residential density.

"Previous work, including our own, has provided snap shots in time, and shown that for children in densely populated cities, the greener the neighborhood, the lower the risk of obesity. Our new study of over 3,800 inner city children revealed that living in areas with green space has a long term positive impact on children's weight and thus health," said Gilbert C. Liu, M.D., senior author of the new study which appears in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Liu is assistant professor of pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute affiliated scientist.

 

AN UNUSUAL STUDY: An unusual study was conducted in psychiatric hospital in Sweden on the effects of the visual representation on nature. Based on records kept during 15-year period, it was found that patients often complained of many of the paintings and prints that the psychiatric hospital displayed. Seven times over this 15-year period patients attacked a painting or print (e.g., tearing a picture from a wall and smashing the frame). Each time the painting or print substantially consisted of abstract art. In contrast, there was no recorded attack on wall art depicting nature (see Ulrich, 1993).

 

CHILDHOOD NATURE EXPERIENCES "Although domesticated nature activities -- caring for plants and gardens -- also have a positive relationship to adult environment attitudes, their effects aren't as strong as participating in such wild nature activities as camping, playing in the woods, hiking, walking, fishing and hunting," said environmental psychologist Nancy Wells, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell. She analyized data from a U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service survey conducted in 1998 that explored childhood nature experiences and adult environmentalism. She used a sample of more than 2,000 adults, ages 18 to 90, who were living in urban areas throughout the country and answered telephone questions about their early childhood nature experiences and their current adult attitudes and behaviors relating to the environment.
"Our study indicates that participating in wild nature activities before age 11 is a particularly potent pathway toward shaping both environmental attitudes and behaviors in adulthood," said Wells, whose previous studies have found that nature around a home can help protect children against life stress and boost children's cognitive functioning.
"When children become truly engaged with the natural world at a young age, the experience is likely to stay with them in a powerful way -- shaping their subsequent environmental path."



VIDEO GAMES:  "Without parents discouraging this lack of connection to nature, with the purchasing of an endless stream of video games and systems, it is scary to wonder how much longer we have before our need to protect our Earth is removed from our consciousness. We are in desperate need of unplugging and leading our children by example, opening a dialog and enjoying time with them out in the world so as to reverse the seemingly unfailing disinterest in nature.

Not only does this lack of connection with nature have harming effects for the environment, it is also harmful to our children. Researchers have found that children with disabilities can gain many positive and health-altering benefits from spending time immersed in nature. Studies of outdoor programs geared towards sick and troubled youth show clear therapeutic value and that just being exposed to views of green grass or trees can improve memory and concentration. Environmental psychologists reported in 2003 that nature in or around the home, or even simply a room with a view of a natural landscape, helped maintain the psychological well being of children.
 Surveys show children in developed countries spend 95 percent of their free time watching TV or on the computer, and only five percent outdoors. Another survey said 20 percent of American children had never climbed a tree."

Ahmed Djoghlaf, the United Nations executive secretary on biological diversity
 

INCREASED PROFICIENCY: In a brain-based workshop I attended, the presenters had calculated in percentages the negative effects on student success of every one of the factors you mentioned, above. Just letting the kids get up and walk around the building to oxygenate their brains, changing the seating and layout of the classroom, or introducing humor and taking an interest in kids' feelings count for huge differences in student achievement. While the presenters observed that more foliage, fresh air and light in classrooms would increase proficiency by 50-60%, they recognized that these are not typically administrative priorities. I actually tried charting the kids' feelings each day, and allowing them to walk in the hallway before class. People acted as if I had lost it, but the kids loved it.
(from C.J. Rich, 2006)

 

RESULTS FROM CONNECTION I felt the natural system connection the first time that I tried the activity and it becomes easier each time that I try to reconnect. In 1998, I was on a humanitarian medical mission to Haiti. I contracted St Louis encephalitis during that mission and have suffered from migraine Headaches since that time. Lately after starting my Organic Psychology studies, when I get a headache, I just go outside and connect with nature. I calm down, I get a feeling of completeness and my headache resolves in minutes. (from David G. 2006)

STRESS REDUCTION At the American Heart Association 1999 convention, Karen Allen, a research scientist at the State University of New York at Buffalo , reported on a study of 48 stockbrokers, half of whom were assigned a dog or a cat and half of whom had none.  All of them were being treated for hypertension, and all had lived alone for more than five years.  The pets had a dramatic positive cardiovascular effect over a six-month period.  Allen's other research projects found that couples with pets are closer and interact more than couples without pets.  In some cases, a pet may be more helpful at relieving stress than a spouse or close friend. (ABC News, 2008)


 

HONEST NATURAL SYSTEM RELATIONSHIPS. In 1959, Dr. Michael J. Cohen founded a program and school based on the Organic Psychology of reconnecting with nature. The National Audubon Society and many others called it the most revolutionary school in America saying, 'It is on the side of the angels.' School participants traveled and thrived in 83 different natural habitats by keeping their commitments to having open, honest relationships with natural systems within and about them. The process reduced or eliminated disorders that involved chemical dependencies, eating, violence, prejudice, academics, loneliness, depression, stress and safety. It became the pilot program of the National Audubon Society Expedition Institute.

 

 

HEALING PROPERTIES. Due to brain injury in a cycling accident, Bart, a writer, could no longer write due to head pain. For years he suffered constant pain that that did not respond to repeated surgical, chemical and psychological and meditation treatment. He sought alternatives from the Internet, discovered Organic Psychology and took an eight week online class in it. He did the course's nature connecting activities with an attractive group of trees in the center of his town. His heightened sensory relationship with them and his online classmates enabled him to overcome his pain so that he could write again. He said it had transformed into pleasure. When the trees were later to be removed for development, Bart passionately rallied the town to protest their demise. The town saved the trees and became more involved with Organic Psychology.

-Reconnecting With Nature


URBAN STRESS Studies suggest that living in a city increases the risk of depression and anxiety, and that schizophrenia rates are higher in people born and brought up in cities. But until now, there hasn't been research into how human brain structures might be affected by urban living.

To that end, researchers at McGill's Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal and the University of Heidelberg in Germany used MRIs to study brain responses of healthy German students who were taking a math test under stressful conditions.

Study participants faced time pressure and in some cases they had investigators scolding them through headphones.

When exposed to those stressful conditions, two areas of the students' brains that are known to be involved in processing emotions became more active, the researchers reported in Wednesday's online issue of the journal Nature.

Specifically, the brain's amygdala was more active in those who lived in cities, and the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex, or pACC, was more active in those who had been brought up in cities, the researchers found.

"Our results identify distinct neural mechanisms for an established environmental risk factor, link the urban environment for the first time to social stress processing, suggest that brain regions differ in vulnerability to this risk factor across the lifespan," Jens Pruessner of McGill and his co-authors concluded.


ADHD
According to a study done at the University of Illinois, "children with ADHD demonstrate greater attention after a 20-minute walk in a park than after a similar walk in a downtown area or a residential neighborhood."


CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND SELF-ESTEEM
A study, conducted on at-risk children by The American Institutes for Research for the California Department of Education, found that week-long outdoor education programs produced a 27 percent increase in "measured mastery of science concepts; enhanced cooperation and conflict resolution skills; gains in self-esteem; gains in positive environmental behavior; and gains in problem-solving, motivation to learn, and classroom behavior."

LANDSCAPE THERAPY

Landscape therapy is a complementary medicine often used as a distraction technique in chemotherapy to help patients manage pain and anxiety. It consists of showing of peaceful, relaxing landscapes to patients, scenes that evoke calm and tranquility.  They may be shown as a slide show, video screen or artwork on paper. - Chemocare.com



AUTHENTIC NATURE SURPASSES TECHNOLOGY In the April issue of the Journal of Current Directions in Psychological Science, Kahn and two of his UW graduate students, Rachel Severson and Jolina Ruckert, look at the psychological effects of interacting with various forms of technological nature and explore humanity's growing estrangement from nature.

The UW researchers cite earlier experiments conducted by Kahn's laboratory, one with a plasma display "window" and several with AIBO, a robotic dog.

The plasma window study showed that people recovered better from low-level stress by looking at an actual view of nature rather than seeing the same real-time high-definition television scene displayed on a plasma window.


SELF-CONFIDENCE AND INIATIVE A 1998 study by Dr. Stephen R. Kellert at Yale University looked at the positive effects of wilderness trips on teens, studying youth enrolled in programs with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and Outward Bound. Kellert found that the teens´experiences inspired lasting growth on personal, intellectual, and even spiritual levels. Participants left with greater self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, autonomy, and initiative.

NATURE SCENES: people feel closer to their community, are willing to give more money to a charitable cause, and care more about social outcomes than they are after looking at man-made scenes. The reason, the University of Rochester researchers state, it communing with nature helps people also commune with their basic values. From experiments including 370 participants, the results show that after viewing urban settings or natural settings, people exposed to natural settings rated close relationships and community higher than they had before seeing the scenes, whereas after viewing urban settings, people placed more value on wealth and fame. Additionally, those who viewed nature scenes were more likely to give higher amounts of money to a good cause. "Nature helps to connect people to their authentic selves. For example, study participants who focused on landscapes and plants reported a greater sense of personal autonomy ("Right now, I feel like I can be myself"). For humans, our authentic selves are inherently communal because humans evolved in hunter and gatherer societies that depended on mutuality for survival."


BACTERIAL EXPOSURE: Exposure to specific bacteria in the environment, already believed to have antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behavior according to research presented today at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego. http://www.physorg.com/news193928997.html

"I suspect this research will be ignored by the media and medical community because nobody can make big money from this natural bacteria...So they developed an injectable extract to test that could be used as a money making medication.  The real kicker is that the beneficial effect was temporary and thus validates that we need constant daily interactions with this natural bacteria, and that it may help explain some of the anxiety reducing effects of a walk in woods provides!"
 

- Kevin Bethel MD CM FAARM

NATURE WALKERS BENEFIT
Marc Berman, a researcher in cognitive psychology and industrial engineering at the University of Michigan, assigned 38 students to take a nearly three-mile walk — half in the Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor and half along a busy street to study the difference between natural and urban settings to improve cognition. The nature-walkers showed a dramatic improvement while the city-walkers did not, demonstrating nature’s significant restorative effects on cognition.

HEART RATE STRESS
In an experiment reported in The Journal of Environmental Psychology, 90 adults were subjected to mild stress and monitored their heart rates while they were exposed to one of three views: a glass window overlooking an expanse of grass and a stand of trees; a 50-inch plasma television screen showing the same scene in real time; and a blank wall. The heart rates of those exposed to the sight of real nature decreased more quickly than those of subjects looking at the TV image. The subjects exposed to a TV screen fared just the same as those facing drywall.

ANXIOUS, DESPAIRING, DISTRESSED
Glenn Albrecht, quoted in The New York Times Magazine, 1/31/10 notes that people have heart’s ease when they’re on their own country. If you force them off that country, if you take them away from their land, they feel the loss of heart’s ease as a kind of vertigo, a disintegration of their whole life.” Australian aborigines, Navajos and any number of indigenous peoples have reported this sense of mournful disorientation after being displaced from their land. This condition is not limited to natives.  Similarly, with contemporary people, when the natural environment becomes disturbed, its residents become anxious, unsettled, despairing, depressed. They suffer from“solastalgia,” the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault, a homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home.’ 

FINDING THEIR VOICE
In A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough  teachers discuss how to create "a landscape of wonder," a primary classroom where curiosity, creativity, and exploration are encouraged. One of the points they made in the book is that when children are allowed to observe, read and write about nature, they are find their voice and become passionate about their topics. In contrast, when students wrote about topics such as careers or sports, they lost their momentum and the results were much less impressive.  

NUMBING SENSORY PERCEPTION
"The web of life model of experiential ecopsychology knowledge as elucidated by Dr. Cohen matches the empirical and familial knowledge evolved by Dr. Alan Greenspan, Dr. Rosemary White and Dr. Ed Tronick in their research and practice of sensory affective development in infants and children. The three practitioners mentioned above describe an infant's need for a sensory nature-connected network of affective, perceptual and family/kin interaction of reciprocal communication (Greenspan, 2001, White, 2007).  This need is based in the infant's natural attractions of thirst, tactile needs for touch, visual needs for specific facial patterns and aural needs for human voices. If the infant is cut off from this network they experience a numbing of their own sensory reception and a deeply felt despair that creates actual neurosynaptic blunting of their capacity for development and intelligence (Tronick, 2007)."

TIME OUTSIDE IMPROVES RESILIENCY AND ACADEMICS
New research by the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) shows that children who spend some time outside the classroom during the school day do better in class academically, socially and emotionally. The research findings were published in the August 2011 issue of the Journal of School Health. “School-based playtime not only improves the physical health of students, but leads to stronger emotional resiliency,” noted Dr. Kristine Madsen, head researcher of the UCSF study. “After physical activity, kids show greater concentration in class.” The UCSF study is the first to compare physical and emotional health outcomes between students in schools that participate in the program offered by the Oakland-based non-profit, Playworks, and a control group.

ACCESS TO NATURE IS ESSENTIAL TO HUMAN HEALTH

"Elderly adults tend to live longer if their homes are near a park or other green space, regardless of their social or economic status. College students do better on cognitive tests when their dorm windows view natural settings. Children with ADHD have fewer symptoms after outdoor activities in lush environments. Residents of public housing complexes report better family interactions when they live near trees.

These are only a few of the findings from recent studies that support the idea that nature is essential to the physical, psychological and social well-being of the human animal, said Frances Kuo, a professor of natural resources and environmental science and psychology at the University of Illinois.
"


HOUSEPLANTS MAKE YOU SMARTER

In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology entitled Benefits of indoor plants on attention capacity in an office setting researchers show that the mere presence of plants in an office boosts one’s ability to maintain attention due to the value of undirected attention to natural attractions of the plant as a renewing relief from directed attention on screens and spreadsheets.


SOIL BACTERIA WORK IN SIMILAR WAY TO ANTIDEPRESSANTS

In the early online edition of the journal Neuroscience.UK scientists suggest that a type of friendly bacteria found in soil may affect the brain in a similar way to antidepressants. Researchers from Bristol University and University College London discovered using laboratory mice, that a "friendly" bacteria commonly found in soil activated brain cells to produce the brain chemical serotonin and altered the mice's behaviour in a similar way to antidepressants. They are suggesting this could explain why immune system imbalance could make some people vulnerable to mood disorders like depression.  "Identification of an immune-responsive mesolimbocortical serotonergic system: Potential role in regulation of emotional behavior."
Neuroscience Available online doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.01.067


PLAY IN NATURE BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN

Children with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are better able to concentrate after contact with nature (Taylor et al. 2001).

Children with views of and contact with nature score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline. The greener, the better the scores (Wells 2000, Taylor et al. 2002).

Children who play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often (Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie 2001).

When children play in natural environments, their play is more diverse with imaginative and creative play that fosters language and collaborative skills (Moore & Wong 1997, Taylor, et al. 1998, Fjortoft 2000).

Exposure to natural environments improves children's cognitive development by improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills (Pyle 2002).

Nature buffers the impact of life's stresses on children and helps them deal with adversity. The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits (Wells & Evans 2003).

Play in a diverse natural environment reduces or eliminates bullying (Malone & Tranter 2003).

Nature helps children develop powers of observation and creativity and instills a sense of peace and being at one with the world (Crain 2001).

Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder (Cobb 1977, Louv
1991).

Wonder is an important motivator for life long learning (Wilson 1997).

Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other (Moore 1996).

Natural environments stimulate social interaction between children (Moore 1986, Bixler et al. 2002).

Outdoor environments are important to children's development of independence and autonomy (Bartlett 1996).

Play in outdoor environments stimulates all aspects of children development more readily than indoor environments (Moore & Wong 1997).

An affinity to and love of nature, along with a positive environmental ethic, grow out of regular contact with and play in the natural world during early childhood. Children's loss of regular contact with the natural world can result in a biophobic future generation not interested in preserving nature and its diversity (Bunting & Cousins 1985; Chawla 1988; Wilson 1993; Pyle 1993; Chipeniuk 1994; Sobel 1996, 2002 & 2004; Hart 1997; Wilson 1997, Kals et al. 1999; Moore & Cosco 2000; Fisman 2001; Kellert 2002; Bixler et al. 2002; Kals & Ittner 2003; Schultz et al. 2004).

MANY BENEFITS THAT CHILDREN EXPERIENCE from regular interactions with nature (collected by Tamberly Mott, MFT)

o    Children with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experience improved concentrate after contact with nature (Taylor et al., 2001).
o    Children who have views of and contact with nature score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline; the greener the view, the better the scores (Wells, 2000; Taylor et al., 2002).
o    Children who play in natural environments demonstrate advanced motor fitness, coordination, balance and agility, and become ill less often (Fjortoft, 2001).
o    Children who play in natural environments, demonstrate increased diversity with imaginative and creative play (Moore & Wong, 1997; Taylor, et al., 1998; Fjortoft 2001).
o    Exposure to natural settings can improve children's cognitive development in their awareness, reasoning and observational skills (Pyle, 2002).
o    Children deal with adversity more skillfully, showing greater resiliency with greater amounts of nature exposure (Wells & Evans, 2003).
o    Play in natural environments can reduce or eliminate bullying (Malone & Tranter, 2003).
o    Nature helps children develop greater powers of observation and creativity, and can instill a sense of peace with the world (Crain, 2001).
o    Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder (Cobb, 1977; Louv, 2005).
o    Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about other children (Moore, 1996).
o    Natural environment stimulates increased social interaction between children (Moore, 1996; Bixler et al., 2002).
o    Outdoor environments help children in the development of independence and autonomy (Spencer & Blades, 2006).
o    Outdoor play stimulates all aspects of children development more readily than indoor environments (Moore, 1996).

References
- Bixler, R. D., Floyd, M.E. & Hammutt, W.E. (2002).  Environmental socialization: Qualitative tests of the childhood play hypothesis.  Environment and Behavior, 34(6), 795-818.
- Cobb, E. (1977).  The ecology of imagination in childhood.  New York, Columbia: University Press.
- Cohen, M. (2007).  Reconnecting with nature: Finding wellness through restoring your bond with the earth.  3rd Ed. Lakeville, MN: Ecopress.
- Crain, William (2001).  Now nature helps children develop. Montessori Life, Summer, 2001.
- Damasio, A. (1999).  The feeling of what happens: Body and emotion in the making of consciousness.  New York: Harcourt Brace.
- Fjortoft, I. (2001). The natural environment as a playground for children: The impact of outdoor play activities in pre-primary school children.  Early Childhood Education Journal 29(2), 111-117.
- Kahn, P.H. (1999).  The human relationship with nature.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Louv, R. (1991).  Childhood's future.  New York, Doubleday.
- Louv, R. (2005).  Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder.  Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
- Moore, R. (1996).  Compact nature: The role of playing and learning gardens on children's lives.  Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, 8, 72-82.
- Pyle, R. (1993).  The thunder trees: Lessons from an urban wildland.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Reed, E.S. (1996).  The necessity of experience.  New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Sobel, D. (1996).  Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart of Nature Education.  Great Barrington, MA: The Orion Society.
- Solomita, A. (2005). Research in brief. Retrieved on March 10, 2009, from
http://www.harvardscience.harvard.edu/animal-vegetable-mineral/articles/research-brief.


REFERENCES to recent quantitative research on the benefits of connecting with nature.

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology (Special issue: Green psychology), 15(3), 169-182.

Shibata, S., & Suzuki, N. (2001). Effects of indoor foliage plants on subjects' recovery from mental fatigue. North American Journal of
Psychology, 3(3), 385-396.

Shibata, S., & Suzuki, N. (2004). Effects of an indoor plant on creative task performance and mood. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 45(5), 373-381.

Van den Berg, A. E., Hartig, T., Staats, H. (2007). Preference for nature in urbanized societies: Stress, restoration, and the pursuit of sustainability. Journal of Social Issues, 63(1), 79-96.

Mitchell, R. and Popham, F. Effect of exposure to natural environment on health inequalities: an observational population study. The Lancet, Volume 372, Issue 9650, Pages 1655 - 1660, 8 November 2008

Hartig, T. Green space, psychological restoration, and health inequality. The Lancet. Volume 372, Issue 9650, 8 November 2008-14
November 2008, Pages 1614-1615


A LETTER RECEIVED: I am 42, a single parent and a surviver from my past. I have had many battles and sought all kinds of therapy but found that my band-aids kept coming off. I realized , when my son had begun his difficult journey, that I could no longer seek those who gave me these band-aids. I prayed for help. I got sick. The doctors were baffled. I was housebound. I lost my financial security, I lost some control over my body, I was scared. I moved beyond myself. I looked out the window. I saw peace, calmness, beauty, the wonders of mother nature. I began to explore my awareness. I became peaceful, calm and for the first time I felt beauty within, thus, over time, allowing others to feel this. My life changed, my thoughts changed, my feelings and perceptions changed. My son was in a difficult environment, I was entering a new one, a truly divine one. It helped me with my son who is now exiting his harsh mental environment, and now we both can move into a magical one. I now realize that no one has taken anything from me, I have me I always had me.

Name Withheld
 

Mental Health Cultivated On The Farm
Science Daily (Apr. 13, 2008) — Time down on the farm with animals could provide some therapeutic benefit for people with mental illness, according to researchers.

The use of farms in promoting human mental and physical health in cooperation with health authorities is increasing in Europe and the USA, particularly under the Green care banner. Historically, the approach was associated with hospitals, psychiatric departments and other health institutions but today, most Green care projects involve community gardens, city farms, allotment gardens and farms.

To assess the benefits of Green care, the researchers asked ninety patients (59 women and 31 men) with schizophrenia, affective disorders, anxiety, and personality disorders to complete self-assessment questionnaires on quality of life, coping ability and self-efficacy, before a 12-week period spending three hours twice a week working with the farm animals.
The before and after results showed that AAT with farm animals had some positive effect on self-efficacy, the ability to cope, of patients with long-lasting psychiatric symptoms, their quality of life. "During the six months follow-up period self-efficacy was significantly better in the treatment group, but not in the control group," the researchers say.

They add that, "Further controlled studies are needed for confirmation and to more accurately define the psychiatric population with the greatest potential to benefit."

Journal reference: Animal-assisted therapy with farm animals for persons with psychiatric disorders, effects on self-efficacy, coping ability and quality of life: a randomized controlled trial. Bente Berget, Řivind Ekeberg and Bjarne O Braastad. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health (in press).


Concrete Evidence for Benefits of Childhood Nature Play

Plenty Magazine (March 24, 2009)  The No Child Left Inside Act was passed by the US House of Representatives. See:Green Kids, Healthy Living


Greening Our Minds: How Nature Nurtures The Brain

Marc Berman, a researcher in cognitive psychology and industrial engineering at the University of Michigan. “Our research shows interacting with nature is good for cognitive functioning, and in growing your own food you might get some healthy produce out of it. It’s hard to think of a downside. It’s vital, though, to get the people actually living in a community involved in the developmental stages.  Berman ran an experiment in which a group of subjects took a three-mile walk in the Ann Arbor Nichols Arboretum, a wooded area with gardens and trails. He had another group walk along a busy street. Subsequent testing showed that the group that took the walk in the Arb performed better on tests of mental focus and memory than the group that walked along the city street. Soft fascinations (rustling leaves, babbling brooks) found in nature increase focus and memory (January 2010 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, Kaplan and Berman).


Increasing Immune Function
The NY Times report notes that spending more time in nature might have some surprising health benefits. In a series of studies, scientists found that when people swap their concrete confines for a few hours in more natural surroundings - forests, parks and other places
with plenty of trees - they experience increased immune function.

Stress reduction is one factor. But scientists also chalk it up to
phytoncides, the airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect them from
rotting and insects and which also seem to benefit humans.

One study published in January included data on 280 healthy people in Japan,
where visiting nature parks for therapeutic effect has become a popular
practice called http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19585091>
"Shinrin-yoku," or "forest bathing." On one day, some people were instructed
to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours, while others walked
through a city area. On the second day, they traded places. The scientists
found that being http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19568835> among plants
produced "lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower
blood pressure," among other things.

A number of other studies have shown that visiting parks and forests seems
to raise levels of white blood cells, including one in 2007 in which men who
took two-hour walks in a forest over two days had
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17903349> a 50-percent spike in levels
of natural killer cells. And another found
<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18394317> an increase in white blood
cells that lasted a week in women exposed to phytoncides in forest air.


Stress Reduction
In Future of Life by E.O. Wilson
(139-140), he cites a study where 120 volunteers were shown a stressful movie, followed by videotapes of either natural or urban settings...they recovered from the feeling of stress more quickly while experiencing the natural settings...supported by four standard physiological measures of stress: heartbeat, systolic blood pressure, facial muscle tension, and electrical skin conductance...The same result was obtained...[for] volunteers stressed by a difficult mathematical examination...Studies of response prior to surgery and dental work have consistently revealed a significant reduction of stress in the presence of plants and aquaria.

Wilson (140) writes that “one Australian study, which factored out variation in exercise levels, diet, and social class, pet ownership accounted for a statistically significant reduction of cholesterol, triglycerides, and systolic blood pressure” while in a similar US study “survivors of heart attacks...who owned dogs had a survival rate six times higher than those who did not” 


Forest Therapy
“The nature-connecting purpose of quietly and attentively visiting a woodland (Forest Therapy) is to provide preventive medical effects by relieving stress and recovering the immune system [diminished] by stress,” Yoshifumi Miyazaki of Chiba University explained. As Japan's leading scholar on forest medicine, he's carried out studies across the country. The results show forest bathing can significantly lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, along with blood pressure and heart rate. Other research points out that walking in the woods can boost the body's immune system by increasing anti-cancer proteins and enhancing the so-called natural killer activity of certain cells. In this case, it's believed humans benefit from breathing in phytoncides, the chemicals plants emit to protect themselves from rotting and insects.

The concept is simple, according to the experts. Humans have spent 99.9 per cent of their evolutionary history in natural environments. Getting back to nature is actually like a physiological homecoming."

C. JAMES DALE
OKUTAMA, JAPAN— From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Oct. 08, 2010 


Scotland: Rights of Children  
The Scottish Government is considering a rights of children and young people bill that would consider access to nature as being included in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"Governments can and should articulate a new right: that every child and young person has the right to grow up and live in a high-quality, wildlife-rich environment with ready access to the physical and mental health benefits, developmental advantages, and play opportunities it affords.  There is a growing and compelling body of evidence that regular and ready access to a wildlife-rich environment is essential for children's health and wellbeing.

"Recognising ˜ and acting on ˜ a right to that wildlife-rich world is essential for delivering better health, better educational attainment, and better social development.  Research published in The Lancet shows that, even after other factors are accounted for, living in a green environment makes people healthier.

"One Scottish child in five is overweight and one in ten is obese but we know that access to attractive, nature-rich greenspace increases physical activity and reduces obesity.  Children who live in busy urban areas where there are lots of trees have lower rates of asthma and lower rates of behavioural problems such as ADHD, yet Scotland has no strategy to green those streets that have high levels of air pollution.  Children who spend time playing outside suffer less from short sight later in life than those who don't.  Children who have ready access to the natural environment have better self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, autonomy, and initiative than those who don't.

"Nature is good for people: let's recognise the right of every child to live and grow up in a wildlife-rich world."


Finding Hope Up a Creek

By Francesca Lyman, Resurgence.


Thanks to John Beal, what was once a culvert dripping with waste is now a beautifully restored stream brimming with beaver and salmon.

For a man broken by war, John Beal found himself an unlikely place of refuge.

Told that he had less than four months to live, the disabled Vietnam veteran wandered down to the stream behind his house to contemplate his future. Hamm Creek was an open sewer, plugged up with garbage. Beal was still recovering from bullet wounds and haunted by flashbacks. Besides suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he had gone through three heart attacks, followed by a serious motorcycle accident.

"I went down to the stream behind my house and just cried, wondering how I'd care for my wife and four kids," says Beal. "Then the idea came to me: if you're going to check out, so to speak, try to leave this place better than when you found it. I looked at this wreck of a stream, filled with refrigerators, old tires, torn garbage bags, broken swings and stinking carpets and all I wanted to do was clean it up."

Maybe it was a way of processing his memories of the wreckage of war, he reflects. Or maybe it was survivor's guilt. Instead of despairing, he started pulling out the garbage. "When I yanked out this huge refrigerator, I thought it would surely kill me. Instead I felt better."

Since that day 23 years ago, Beal has directed all of his energies to restoring this polluted Seattle, Washington. stream. During the last 10 years he has moved on to restoring the entire watershed. Beal has recruited hundreds of crews to clean up and replant around the streams and has now established a network of volunteer groups living in the area, as well as drawing the support and interest of the local Duwamish tribe.

Through sheer persistence, Beal eventually raised enough public awareness and pressure to persuade the local utility to allow Hamm Creek, which had been channelized and paved into a culvert, to be daylighted and rerouted over its property. As a result, what was once a culvert dripping with waste is now a beautifully recontoured and replanted stream brimming with beaver, salmon, and other fish.

For Beal, the impulse to do environmental restoration is itself restorative: "It has empowered me and kept me alive." That same impulse has spurred the energies of thousands of volunteers. "I've seen remarkable things happen to people who connect with Mother Earth," he concludes, describing dozens of cases of people disabled physically or psychologically who benefit from the exercise and feeling of accomplishment.

"I remember watching a young man who had been in a wheelchair for eight years come out to help us weed and plant," he says. "After two years, he's almost able to walk." At first, the young man would fall out of his wheelchair, Beal recalls. But now, he says, he is able to clamber down the slope of the shore, willing himself through. "He was out there every single day. And lately he's saying, 'Now I've got a mission in life.'"

No matter how stressed, angry, depressed or troubled they are, whether it's a jail crew sent to clean up litter for the day, or a class of students, they seem to derive pleasure from the activity, says the riverkeeper.

The redemptive feelings Beal describes are echoed by thousands of visitors and volunteers who have come to his restored creeksite. They are also confirmed by an emerging movement loosely called "ecopsychology," the study of nature's therapeutic benefits.

In the last decade, hundreds of studies have begun documenting what many people know intuitively about the healing power of nature. "Nature is in some fundamental way important for the human psyche, and as such it is really central to public health," says Roger Ulrich, director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University.

Ulrich has tested these theories on patients recovering from cardiac and abdominal surgery. He found that patients whose hospital rooms overlooked trees required less pain medication and recovered more quickly than those whose rooms overlooked brick walls.

John Beal, like the ecopsychologists, believes that the impulse toward environmental restoration is about the need for connection and purpose in a world increasingly dissociated from nature.

"It's the connection to something larger than yourself," says Beal. "When you are so overwhelmed by your depression, or anxiety or sense of illness, it takes away that worry; it calms that fear."

Francesca Lyman is the author of 'Inside the Dzanga-Sangha Rain Forest' and 'The Greenhouse Trap.'

 

 

"We are dysfunctional socially and environmentally because we are cut off and isolated from the world of nature and the natural."

-Albert Gore
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Dear Vice President Gore,

Please be informed that Project NatureConnect provides an alternative, holistic, sensory science that helps our psyche genuinely connect with nature. Because this sustainable tool enables our mind to thoughtfully tap into nature's balance, grace and restorative powers our dysfunctions wane and our personal and environmental well-being improves.

For Peace,

Michael J. Cohen, Ed. D.

 

 

*Irvine, K and Warber, S (2002). "Greening Healthcare: Practicing as if the Natural Environment Really Mattered" reviewed in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine September/October 2002 (Volume 8, Number 5).


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