If you have been to any of Singapore’s many parks or the Botanic Gardens on a weekday morning or the weekend, you’ve seen them bustling with people and families enjoying the greenery and open space. Whether it’s jogging, tai chi, walking the dog or having a picnic, it is these green spaces people flock to. The accessibility and use of urban oases and green spaces are therapeutic and healing. The biologist Edward O. Wilson used the term biophilia to mean the “inherent human need to affiliate deeply and closely with the natural environment, particularly it’s living organisms” (1984). Wilson believes that biophilia is part of our emotional hard wiring and is part of our human history. The neuroscientist James Ashbrook believed the mammallian part of our brains responsible for impulses, survival and subconscious activity has environmental roots and that human beings have an ancestral connection to bond with nature. The human species ability to survive for 3 million years is a result of adapting and living harmoniously in nature and this innate need to connect still exists.
The field of ecotherapy, which represents therapy techniques that involve a mutual healing between the human mind and the nature in which it evolved, is growing. This includes wilderness therapy, animal assistance therapy, horticulture therapy and equine-assisted therapy. Research suggests that our growing disconnection from the natural world can produce symptoms of anxiety, depression and other psychological distress (Liebert, 2009). There is evidence of the restorative role nature plays in restoring our executive functioning and promoting self-regulation and impulse control (Kaplan and Berman, 2010). When we are on our devices, at the office or school all day and constantly stimulated by the environment around us, it can be hard to give our bodies and minds space to decompress and slow down. This is essential for our functioning and overall well-being.
Whether it be tending to your garden, adding some plants to your home, starting a new family ritual of visiting a nature reserve on the weekend or having a cuddle with your pet, know your body and mind will thank you.
MA Clinical Social Work
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Chalquist, C. (2009). A look at ecotherapy research evidence. Ecopsychology, I (2), 64-74
Gass et. All (2012). Adventure Therapy: Theory, Research and Practice