The Healing Power of Nature
A recent article in Time magazine describes a new form of therapy - eco-therapy! A growing number of psychologists believe that many of the current problems facing people today - depression, anxiety, and stress - are due, in part, to our alienation from nature. This idea is not entirely new. In the 1980s, E.O. Wilson coined the term "biophilia" to describe humans' natural affinity for nature.
In both residential and commercial construction, there is an increased emphasis on creating healing environments. One aspect of healing spaces is the use of environmental features that embody characteristics of the natural world, such as color, water, sunlight, plants, natural materials, and exterior views and vistas. We know from "evidence-based design" that many of these features go beyond aesthetic - they do, in fact, contribute to healing.
In a 2005 book titled The Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv introduced the phrase "nature deficit disorder," which is based on the idea that children are kept indoors to such an extent that their ability to connect with nature has been disrupted. Louv believes that computers and video games contribute to this phenomenon. I am inclined to believe that adults, as well as children, are at risk for this condition. Consider how many hours are spent indoors every day. I'd recommend keeping a journal for even a week to tracks how many hours a day you spend connecting in some way with nature.
The Center for Spirituality and Healing, in collaboration with Craig Blacklock, has created a 20-minute DVD that immerses you in the sights and sounds of a Healing Garden for those times you are unable to be in the natural world. While relaxing for anyone, we have heard from our hospital partners that the Healing Garden DVD is profoundly helpful to particular patient populations or for those unable to be in the outdoors. We will be coming out with the second DVD in the series, The Forest Awakens, before the end of this year.
In your experience, does nature heal? We'd love to hear your stories. Send us a note and do get out to enjoy these lingering days of summer.