Is there a connection between the natural world and our sense of resilience? This was a study subject by Dr. Ingulli and Lindbloom, authors of the book Ecopsychology (2013.52-55).
And the answer is, yes there is, and this was especially noticed among the people who live in large urban centres interestingly enough and pretty much similar. It was observed that urban dwellers when put in touch with natural and other-than-human environments managed to easily tap into their inborn and internal resilient resources and increased their ability of recognition of resilient competences by simply being in touch with nature.
There are specific mental and psychological factors that foster resilience, everyone copes with stressful events throughout life, and many are then led into mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder just to mention a few, as the external stressful situation generates internal stressors which create and maintain those mental conditions. Those who increase their awareness about their own resilience learn to adjust and cope with the stressors, recover from the harm suffered and get on with living fairly good lives.
Some do believe that understanding the mechanisms that bring about awareness about one’s own resilient resources may be even more important than aiming at community resilience.
Stating that nature’s positive impact on mental health is a discovery as recent as inventing the wheel or fire, it is fairly obvious and something that most humans experience at some point in life, the real discovery is that the nature-mental health connection is something older than psychology, and a subject of study in positive/depth/eco psychologies, and it connects directly with spirituality as nature becomes a place for restoration, harmonisation and healing becoming thus what is known as a “restorative environment”, and that is the reason why spending time in nature leads to stress recovery and reduction accompanied by a sense of belonging and identity connection to the natural world.
When talking about connection what is meant is not simply a link between two parts,, rather an “experiential sense of oneness” and of mutual belonging, a wider identity that goes beyond the individual .
We explored in the previous chapter how community engagement can be a channel to reawaken your inborn resilience, and in this one we are touching how engagement with the non-human world can be a channel that gives you the opportunity of activating the resilient resources that lay asleep within you. Data and research from the authors have uncovered that positive human-nature relations and connection enhance the coping competences in dealing with hardships. When talking about resilience what is meant is the combination of already existing traits together with the environmental influences that keep you safe from stress, trauma and their psychological aftermath, and allow living a good life regardless.
The study concluded that there is empirical evidence to suggest that overall there is a positive relation between experiencing connection to the natural world and resilience. Those who registered high scores on Connectedness to Nature Scale also registered high scores on the Resilience Scale for Adults (RSA), giving both qualitative and quantitative solid grounds to suggest that fostering a connection to the natural world can help to keep or develop a more positive mental health, which is one of the fundamentals of ecopsychology.
The immediate effect that was observed is stress reduction and a more positive and proactive response to stressors resulting from everyday life’s hardships.
In conclusion we can say to all people out there, with a fair attention to practitioner of mental health and personal support professions that encouraging experiences where people connect with nature will indeed, though to different levels, promote resilience and lead to a path that untap those inborn, perhaps dormant resilient competencies and make this practice and support as widely available as possible to accompany therapy, support, coaching, counselling etc. Because, as mentioned above, this not only impacts positively the mind with immediate effect, it also allows to open a gateway of connectivity that extends the level of identity beyond the ego, to feel connected to human and non-human communities, finding in loved ones, in members of the same community, in a meadow or a mountain a part of oneself, which contrast and reduce the impact of stressors such as loneliness, isolation and feeling disconnected, increasing greatly resilience.
In times when survival and health depend on social distancing, when socialising is limited for safety and security measures and many are to stay in their homes and wait for solutions for the responses and efforts of the scientific community, and that sense of connection and its positive impacts that existed before the pandemic, and often taken for granted, can be used as an opportunity for (re)connection with the non-human world out there, for walks in the parks or in wilder natural space and to do nothing except feeling and enjoying, what do you have to lose?