Interior photo of a greenhouse.

Societal eco-healing includes policy and application efforts by local, state, and national organizations to provide the public access to nature in order to enhance their physical, mental, and spiritual health and wellbeing.

With the advent of industrial society and the subsequent migration to urban and suburban areas, people’s interaction with nature has increasingly diminished. To combat this loss and preserve land, many towns and cities created nearby parks while states and nations developed public park systems.

Today, scientific research on nature’s impact has inspired public and private branches of society to create healthcare programs such as green exercise, care farming, therapeutic horticulture, inner-city gardens, new hospital and school designs, eco-justice efforts, and animal-assisted therapy. Studies have shown the financial benefits, as well as the health efficacy, of many of these efforts (Shoup & Ewing, 2010; Been & Voicu, 2006; Harnik & Well, 2009).

Some societal problems that are being addressed with eco-healing methodologies are obesity, at-risk youth, social isolation, crime and violence, and poverty.

Photo of someone holding a palm-sized rock.

Nature and Societal/Social Identity

Go outside to visit with nature. You can take something to record your thoughts or not. Once you are seated, practice breathing deeply in a relaxed manner. Count one on the inhale and two on the exhale until you are inwardly more silent and still.

Observe the nature all around you, from pebbles to leaves to ants. When you are ready, select 3 or more natural objects to focus on. You may pick them up or just observe them.

Using those three things as symbols, ask yourself, “How are these objects related to my societal and social identity?” You may also ask yourself such things as: how does nature reflect and influence my societal and social values? For example, how much do I know about my town’s environmental policies? Do I spend time in nature with my friends or family members? What local organizations or activities that foster sustainability do I support?

Been, V., Voicu, I. (2006). “The Effect of Community Gardens on Neighboring Property Values.” Law & Economics Research Paper Series Working Paper No. 06-09.

Harnik, P., Well, B. (2009). Measuring the economic value of a city park system. Washington, D.C., The Trust for Public Land, pg 10.

Nisbet, E.K., Zelenski, J.M., Murphy, S.A. (2009). The nature relatedness scale:  linking individuals’ connection with nature to environmental concern and behavior. Environment and Behavior;(41), 715-740.

Shoup, L., Ewing, R. (2010). The economic benefits of open space, recreation facilities and walkable community design. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-Active Living Research, pg. 28.