Ecopsychology, the social benefits of psycho-cognitive wellbeing

Since its inception three decades ago in Berkeley, California, ecopsychology is increasingly gaining ground in many fields of education and work.  Seeking to examine the correlations between the quality of the natural environment and an individual’s inner wellbeing, it brings a new approach to environmental education and also work and training in general.

A team of researchers led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter recently conducted a study on a sample of twenty thousand people.

The results were surprising: people who spent at least two hours a week in green spaces, in contact with nature, showed good health and high psychological wellbeing.

It’s well-known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and wellbeing, but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough.

Mathew White, Lecturer at the University of Exeter

“Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit”, concludes Professor White.


In touch with nature

Getting in touch with nature has beneficial effects on the entire nervous system, strengthening our immune system, increasing self-esteem, reducing anxiety and even boosting our mood. Much research has also concluded that attention deficits and aggression decrease in natural environments, which also helps speed up the rate of recovery.

The work of White and his colleagues is just the latest in a rapidly expanding area of research that suggests that nature has a significant effect on our physical and also emotional health and wellbeing. This will have major ramifications for both training and employment. In fact, an increasing number of schools, following the dictates of ecopsychology, are allowing teachers to teach outdoors.

The number of so-called ‘forest schools‘ has grown dramatically in the wake of new findings in ecopsychology. In the United States, it has increased by 500% in just ten years. So much so that the state of Oregon recently passed a measure to raise money for outdoor schools. Even more so in Washington, whose state became the first to allow outdoor kindergartens.

Likewise, a growing number of companies are realising the need for a sustainable working environment in terms of not only environmental impact, but also relationships.

Gretchen Daily, head of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University, and her research team have shown that the cognitive and emotional benefits of contact with nature should be taken seriously into account in current economic and organisational models. 


Overall benefits of ecopsychology

“There is an awakening underway today to many of the values of nature and the risks and costs of its loss. This new work can help inform investments in livability and sustainability of the world’s cities”, explains Daily. This has not only to do with ethics or responsibility, but first and foremost with social-cognitive wellbeing. This is where ecopsychology has managed to shift the perspective on things in just thirty years.

How? This is related by one of its pioneers, the physicist Fritjof Capra.

Ecopsychology reminds us that there is a complexity that we, as humans, must account for. Awareness of this complexity can help bring about change.

Fritjof Capra, physicist, pioneer of ecopsychology

In light of the global financial crisis, Capra concludes that “it is becoming more and more evident that the major problems of our time — energy, the environment, climate change, food security, and financial security — cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are interconnected and interdependent: thus the importance of ecopsychology for so many human areas, from education to training, from health to work”.

Di |2024-06-14T07:36:35+01:00Novembre 10th, 2021|Education, Human Capital, MF|0 Commenti