To Be Human
To Be Human
It is well known that modern humanity is deeply alienated from nature in its many forms. Indeed for the first time in human history, the majority of people on the planet now live within built urban environments. Despite our information rich modern world, there is little meaningful relationship between the amount of knowledge available to us about the environment and the development of important caring relationships with nature. What is needed are direct emotional encounters with nature so that there is a shift from something being intellectually ‘known’ (and therefore detached) to a more personal and emotive connection. Indeed, it is only when we are removed from the noise and distraction of modern day living that our senses are able to adjust to the sensuous and vibrant qualities of the natural world and thus develop a deep respect for it.
In addition to these environmental benefits, getting back to nature is necessary to remind us of what it means to be human – we get back in touch with something of our more natural side. As a species, we have spent many hundreds of thousands of years living and evolving symbiotically with the natural world. Evolutionary theory, psychological research, numerous historical accounts, have suggested that encounters with nature, in its many forms, are vital to remain psychologically healthy.
The rediscovery of our love of the natural is an important step towards re-evaluating of our place on earth and our health, both mental and physical. We need multi-sensory experiences (sight, sound, texture, sensation & smell) that can promote healing - an idea which has its roots in ancient Greece. Typically, in the modern world we over-use two senses – seeing and hearing, whilst one of the most powerful and evocative senses which receives less attention, is the sense of smell (olfactory). Natural scents, fragrances and smells have been found to have a profound effect on stress reduction for instance, often operating at a sub-conscious level – we feel good but have little understanding why. These scents are also able to evoke associated memories (consider the smell of freshly mown grass), emotions, and physical reactions (e.g., relaxing, slower breathing, etc.) and act as a link to discovery. For instance, if we are stimulated by a fragrance for instance, we are drawn to find the source – think of honeysuckle which is often discovered first by the scent and then found visually.
For our collective health, living in the modern world requires us to find ‘bridges’ to the nature that we are largely removed from – perhaps the reasons why we have potted plants in our homes and offices, have pets and a desire to sit in the sun trap window. The effect of these bridges helps to create an environment which benefits our wellbeing and also promotes a stronger desire to protect the nature we are in contact with.
Written by Dr Joe Hinds (MSc, PG Dip, DPhil)
Author of Ecotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice
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In this thought-provoking book, Jordan and Hinds provide a comprehensive exploration of this emerging area of practice. Divided into three parts, the book offers a unique examination of a range of theoretical perspectives, unpacks the latest research and provides a wealth of illuminating practice examples, with a number of chapters dedicated to authors' own first-hand experiences of the positive psychological effects of having contact with nature.