Nature and Health Principles: You Can't Always Get What You Need

In the Nature Principle,  Richard Louv asserts the more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need, and illustrates multiple ways to bring nature back into our everyday lives.

This dovetails with a recent post in the Therapeutic Landscape Network that zeroes in on a vital aspect of nature we need but may not want:  health.

In this particular healing landscapes (TLN Blog Post) an articulation explored the connection between nature and health (which then led into a series of informative comments).

I was drawn to the distinction of “Wild nature” and “Designed nature” and the elaboration regarding 'EcoTonic' and the 'Euro-perspective' on using nature as an adjunct to health and wellness therapies (and having these as entitlements in some EU health systems).

To help frame a comparative context it might be useful to look at what we also term ‘wilderness’ and observe/facilitate/interact with contemporary, urban youngsters on the verge of it (wilderness) in the USA.

To illustrate, I recently co-facilitated a program that involved 6 typical teenage girls playing a form of barefoot “toequet” in a “wilderness” garden (next to our well-kept therapy garden.

They — to a person — were reluctant to step off the paved areas and on to the grass barefoot:  did so only when play dictated and many would not go beyond the modestly-kept grass and into the leafy edges to retrieve errant balls…(see images to show this unconscious response).  Bear in mind, the co-facilitators  for the game (yours truly being one of them) modeled vigorous and playful nature engagement. We strolled over the field of play, wove in and out of the trees and more (or less) ensured untoward critters weren't hanging about.  

Nonetheless, it was instructive to see how a reflex response to view 'nature as alien' can impact on the actual potential of nature therapy in building resilience into a child's healthy development.

Interconnectedness in Civic Response
Just as the co-facilitating mentors could only go so far in influencing the youth playing our Toequet game, a single government agency needs to recognize that an inter-agency response (of collaborative interest) can achieve a great deal to move nature to the curative forefront of those that need it most.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Children’s Mental Health Awareness efforts have begun to grasp this potential.

Through an inter-generational model, we’ve been helpful in having SAMHSA relate to integrating mental health and resilience skills in every environment that has an impact on child development from birth.  SAMHSA encourages families with young children affected by trauma, youth affected by trauma, and professionals in child-serving professions nationwide to collaborate.

In the future, we see interchange and bridges formed with both the Environmental Protection Agency and Let’s Move (in Nature) initiatives by using Nature Therapy, the US Play Coalition and wonderful ambassadors such as Let’s Go Chipper (an eco-educational series teaches good character and a love for the environment).

Randy Eady, M.ED, HDR, has 16+ years experience in advocacy/clinical contact related to balance and movement disorders.  He currently teaches Tai Chi programs at the ACTS CCRC in Boca Raton, FL and Balance and Breathing classes for the City of Delray Beach.  KR Therapeutics has worked with the Governor of Florida to reduce the cost of health care in the state via mentor facilitation and legacy-elder training in outdoor settings. He's a member of the US Play Coalition and Intern'l Council on Active Aging.  He is on the Editorial Advisory Board of Garden Design.

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Comment by Randy Eady on May 23, 2011 at 11:22am
An importantPublic Health essay from the School of Health & Social Dev., Deakin University, Melborne, AUS adds impetus to the "therapeutics of nature" ... In Healthy nature healthy people:  nature is defined as an organic environment where the majority of ecosystem processes are present (e.g. birth, death, reproduction, relationships between species).  This includes the spectrum of habitats from wilderness areas to farms and gardens ~~~

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