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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Eco-Psychology: Families and Peaceful Living

Jul 31, 2012 11:23AM ● By Dan Huber, Ph.D.

Modern-day life has become increasingly complex in many ways. Cell phones, iPods, computers, video games and numerous other electronic and consumer-driven products seem to have made us more indentured to, than liberated from, daily activities. Signs of stress and tension are everywhere; politically, economically, socially and vocationally, many areas of life have become infused with a chronic state of tension and mindless busyness. Today’s families are more likely to find entertainment on a 50-inch flat-screen television than through taking a walk through the woods or playing board games.

Eco-psychology—a movement started and popularized by Theodore Rosak in his book, The Voice of the Earth—advocates an alternative to hectic daily living, one that prescribes interacting mindfully with nature and the environment and engaging ourselves in ways that respectfully and cooperatively support, rather than compete with or destroy, nature’s harmony.

Applied to mental health, eco-psychology encourages us to get out into nature and take solace and comfort in the gentle sound of waves lapping the shore, wind blowing through the trees, star-filled night skies and innumerable other opportunities that nature offers for healing and recreating ourselves on a daily basis.

Applied to family life, parents and children can gain much from such simple pleasures as planting and caring for a garden, walking a beloved pet or relaxing to the calming sounds of gentle rain on a summer night.

Therapeutically, eco-psychology offers “adventure therapy,” in the form of such wilderness self-challenges as rock climbing and whitewater rafting. Involvement in such activities can expand one’s sense of competence and wellbeing and encourage a feeling of connectedness with nature and self in new and enriching ways. Taking an eco-tour to a rain forest or canoeing on a quiet secluded pond can soothe the heart and soul more quickly than antidepressants or substances.

Take some time to turn off the electronics and go for a refreshing walk outdoors with the children, just observing and discussing what you see, hear and smell, no matter what season, and enjoy the benefits of being surrounded by nature’s gentle and healing ways. Take a class at a local nature center on bird watching or wildflower identification or at a planetarium to learn about the wonders of the night sky. Give Mother Nature’s healing a chance and the whole family may enjoy surprising rewards.

Dan Huber, Ph.D., is co-owner of Coachhorse, a nature-based learning center in Kiel, Wisconsin, which offers eco-psychology programs for children, families and groups. For more information, call 920-980-5326 or visit