Ecopsychology and ecotherapy research

Ecopsychology research draws on a range of disciplines including geography, neuroscience and psychology. This is a sample of some accessible articles on the subject.

Easing Brain Fatigue With a Walk in the Park
Gretchen Reynolds describes new research that confirms that green spaces are calming and can reduce stress and mental fatigue. Researchers from two Edinburgh universities used mobile EEG recorders to measure participants brain wave patterns as they walked. The route took them through busy city streets and an urban park. The equipment recorded five brain wave channels, which researchers labelled as short-term excitement, 'frustration', 'engagement', 'long-term excitement' and 'meditation'. People's brain waves in the green space showed significantly lower 'frustration' and higher 'meditation'.

Green spaces create healthy communities

The latest research confirms that green spaces are essential for our psychological well-being. Frances “Ming” Kuo (University of Illinois) has studied a wide range of research from the last decade. She concludes that in areas with good access to green spaces “people are more generous and more sociable. We find stronger neighborhood social ties and greater sense of community, more mutual trust and willingness to help others”.

Ecopsychology: An Idea Whose Times Has Come Want to feel better about yourself—just walk outside.
by Steven Kotler

[A] study analyzed 1200 people involved in 10 separate studies done in the UK and found that a five-minute "dose" of nature was enough to improve self-esteem. The study also showed that this effect held across a variety of outdoor activities-from hiking through fishing through gardening (and even farming).

The Park Prescription: Take Five (Minutes) and Call Me In the Morning
By Deborah Fleischer

Just five minutes of exercise in nature can boost your mood and improve self-esteem. No surprise then that research shows that nature is better at treating moderate depression than antidepressant drugs - and it's cheaper!

Greening our minds: How nature nurtures the brain
By Larry Gabriel

We know spending time in natural settings is good for you, but research is now revealing the details: interacting with nature can improve self-confidence, enhance cognitive functioning and can even make us the less materialistic.

This Side of Paradise: Discovering Why the Human Mind Needs Nature
By Eric Jaffe

More evidence that nature can ease mild depression plus the news that it can also make us less aggressive.

The Healing Power of Nature
By Beth Lapin

A good overvew of what ecotherapy is all about. Beth is an ecotherapist herself and puts some of the rersearch into a pratical context.

More detailed reports

The Faculty of Public Health (in association with Natural England) published a report called Great Outdoors: How Our Natural Health Service Uses Green Space To Improve Wellbeing.

The report draws on a wide range of evidence and the conclusions support the findings outlined above. Spending time in green spaces:

  • may reduce the need for medication and services for mental health patients.
    reduces symptoms in children with ADHD
  • increases concentration and self-discipline among inner city girls
    enhanced emotional and values-related development and reduced stress in
    children.

There's much more in the report, but the principle is very clear; nature is good for you!

If you'd like to go deeper into the subject, the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory has an extensive bibliography of research papers on the Human Health Benefits Of Natural Landscapes.