Ecotherapy & Attentional Restoration Theory.

Ecotherapy.

Can be defined as a treatment programme which intention is to help improve both physical and mental health and wellbeing through the participation of outdoor activities in partnership to nature.

  • What attracted my attention towards ecotherapy and deciding  to investigate further was the strong connection and attraction towards a natural environment/landscape and how visiting regularly  can provide me with solice.
  • Being within a natural environment / landscape can be a very visual experience, I can admire the complexity of nature, for example the shapes of trees, how the sunlight can cut through tree branches, the scale and rate which moss can cover an area.

As noted by Oliver James for The Guardian (2014) Michael .J. Cohen suggests that nature can provide humans an alternative escape from busy cultures and lifestyles. An example being that the earth can offer a wisdom, joy as well as beauty which is seperate from the realities of war and global warming. Cohen further argues that our conditioning and limitations as humans ultimately force us to use words, symbols and photographs as a way of representing our interpretation of the natural, sensory world. (James, 2014).

We are more susceptible to experiencing emotional distress when we are within an urban landscape than a rural landscape and this is primarily due to an estrangement we feel and isolation from the natural sights, smells and sounds.

Attentional Restoration Theory.

As noted by The National Center For Biotechnology Information (2014) Attentional Restoration Theory or abbreviated as ART, is a framework initially established by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan (1989) in their book The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective (Kaplan, 1989) (The National Center For Biotechnology Inforation, 2014). The ART theory suggests that people who live or regularly visit urban environments are exposed to repetitive visual stimulation, is referred to as hard fascination, which becomes cognitively tiring. However within a natural environment, as Kaplan suggests is a soft fascination, refers to the idea that features we view in a natural, rural landscapes, for example, automatically capture out attention, with little effort and provides us with feelings of pleasure.

In order for a natural environment to have a successful restorative effect upon an individual there are four categories which must be fulfilled:

  1. Extent – The ability to feel engrossed in the environment.
  2. Being Away – Providing an escapism from recurrent activites.
  3. Soft Fascination – Elements of the environment catch attention effortlessly.
  4. Compatibility – The person must want to be within the environment to benefit from it and gain a full appreciation for the location.

This initial insight into ecotherapy and ART theory has been thoroughly beneficial and informative, through this experience I am beginning to gain a better understanding and knowledge relating to our appreciation as human beings for landscapes and how it is within these environments our minds and bodies positively benefit from being immersed in natural locations. I cannot wait to continue my development and knowledge surrounding the ideas of ecotherapy and ART theory…

Reference List:

JAMES, O. (2014). Ecotherapy: How does the great outdoors improve mental health? [Online] Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jun/17/ecotherapy-how-outdoors-improve-mental-health-parks-wilderness [Last Accessed: March 2017].

NATIONAL CENTER FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY INFORMATION (2014). The Great Outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. [Online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4204431/ [Last Accessed: March 2017].

Bibliography:

AMERICAN PROJECT NATURE CONNECT. (2017). Counseling and nature: A Greening of Psychotherapy. [Online] Available from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED374387.pdf [Last Accessed: March 2017].

CLINEBELL, H. (2013). Ecotherapy: Healing ourselves, Healing the Earth. [Online] Available from: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_OZkAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA260&lpg=PA260&dq=ecotherapy+kaplan&source=bl&ots=94aaHsSWNz&sig=HXeRinHRcFUXpI1_HMitEI5uQQM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjCrrqgpOXSAhUQS2MKHYCGCdkQ6AEIKzAC#v=onepage&q=ecotherapy%20kaplan&f=false [Last Accessed: March 2017].

GOOGLE. (2017). Ecotherapy. [Online] Available from: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=ecotherapy&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gfe_rd=cr&ei=lznNWOqHOI7W8AfhhqroDQ [Last Accessed: March 2017].

GRIFFORD, R. (2016). Research Methods for Environmental Psychology. [Online] Available from: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=vJqLBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA325&lpg=PA325&dq=robert+kaplan+ecotherapy&source=bl&ots=hPHBFoFlnC&sig=dOyxYL3AYoCxIL3_ZzoSbrdJ_RQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiuvdGDpeXSAhVM_mMKHcLwDV0Q6AEIODAE#v=onepage&q=kaplan&f=false [Last Accessed: March 2017].

JAMES, O. (2014) Ecotherapy: How does the great outdoors improve mental health? [Online] Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jun/17/ecotherapy-how-outdoors-improve-mental-health-parks-wilderness [Last Accessed: March 2017].

NATIONAL CENTER FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY INFORMATION (2014). The Great Outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. [Online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4204431/ [Last Accessed: March 2017].

TAYLOR & FRANCIS ONLINE. (2016). Attention Restoration Theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments. [Online] Available from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10937404.2016.1196155 [Last Accessed: March 2017].

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER. (2017). Attention Restoration Theory: A Systematic Review. [Online] Available from: http://www.ecehh.org/research-projects/attention-restoration-theory-a-systematic-review/ [Last Accessed: March 2017].

WIKIPEDIA. (2016) Rachel and Stephen Kaplan. [Online] Avaliable from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_and_Stephen_Kaplan [Last Accessed: March 2017].

WIKIPEDIA. (2016) Attention Restoration Theory. [Online] Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention_restoration_theory [Last Accessed: March 2017].

 

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