“Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human. It is to transcend not only national limitations, but even our species isolation, to enter into the larger community of living species. This brings about a completely new sense of reality and value.” – Thomas Berry
Mindfulness Rooted Ecotherapy (MRE) is a holistic, multi-sensory approach, integrating diverse elements of mindfulness and ecotherapy.
The principles behind MRE are:
- Nature-connection as one of the most important puzzle pieces needed for physical and mental health.
- Accessibility for all: Some situations prevent clients to get physically out into nature. There are still so many possibilities to connect to the natural world with a creative approach that thinks outside the box.
- Honouring individuality: Every person is different and for some clients certain parts of this modality might resonate more than others. In addition all clients have their personal needs, sensitivities, aversions (possible trauma) and preferences. It is of utmost importance to honour these differences in this approach. MRE lends itself to tailor sessions individually for every client, and elements are freely combinable in addition to the practitioners’ own expertise and offerings.
- Multi-sensory approach: We are multi-sensory beings and need the information of our senses to experience and connect to our environment. MRE incorporates a multi-sensory approach to achieve maximum integration for the benefit of health and well-being. Sessions can be adapted for both indoor and outdoor settings.
- We can’t have healthy humans on a sick planet: MRE honours the health of humans as well as the health of all living beings and our planet as a whole. We are all part of one system and if the planet is unbalanced, so are all the living organisms. We encourage practitioners to support this attitude in their work with clients and beyond.
The concept for MRE was born from a passion for Health and Nature, but also from a realisation that there is a clear need to supplement mental and physical health modalities with a nature focused element, that can be flexibly integrated into practice.
In recent times the focus in traditional and alternative health approaches has often been symptom orientated, dissecting specific conditions from the person rather than looking at the bigger picture. Thankfully more and more science based studies are supporting the need for reciprocal nature connection as an essential part of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, as well as the health of our Mother Earth. Approaches like mindfulness, forest bathing, nature-based psychotherapy, “The Work That Reconnects” and nature prescriptions to name just a few, are gathering momentum and are slowly but surely becoming a firm part of treatment modalities. The field of ecopsychology is coming to the conclusion, that merely information about the benefits of Nature and the precarious situation of our planet is not enough to initiate changes in beliefs, behaviours and personal wellbeing. This calls for innovative and creative ways to facilitate reconnecting approaches, in order for them to be of maximum benefit.
Another important aspect is the need for a nature-connecting approach that will meet individuals where they are, both literally and personally. Not everyone is able, for whatever reason, to regularly spend time outdoors in a natural environment but would greatly benefit from adapted nature-based approaches. Hospitals, residential homes, practices, schools and other institutions are lacking that nature element, not just in treatment/education content, but from architectural design, décor, integration of natural elements as resources for healing and wellbeing. Little things like a framed poster of a nature scene, a pot plant or wall mural in a hospital room don’t cost a lot, but can make all the difference for a patient who can’t get up for extended periods of time. There is mounting scientific evidence about the importance of nature connection and our ability to heal on all levels. Nature-based approaches don’t have to necessarily be applied in outdoor settings, as contradictory as this may sound:
“Nature Connection is an Inside Job – We could stand in the middle of a forest, yet be somewhere completely different in our minds, at the same time we can connect to Nature anywhere and anytime by just directing our attention…” – Alex Koster
Nature connection indoors can look like this:
- Meditations and visualisations.
- Bringing awareness to all the nature elements we are connected to.
- Listening to music/tracks that include nature sounds.
- Nature-themed artwork on the walls.
- Pot plants in the room.
- Opening windows letting in fresh air.
- Movement exercises with a Nature theme.
- Nature friends ie. a piece of Nature meaningful to the client (feather, pebble, sea shell, crystal, branch etc.)
- Diffusing natural essential oils and other olfactory possibilities.
- Art and craft activities (eco art therapy).
- Multi-sensory approaches ie. Beach experience: feet immersed in a box with sand, feeling/holding sea shells, looking at a photo of a beautiful beach scene, listening to a track of ocean waves.
MRE is a modality that works both indoors and outdoors and supports practitioners to integrate the all-important Nature element into their approaches. As you will see, this method is highly flexible and adaptable, yet incredibly powerful opening up possibilities for clients and patients who have been missing this vital puzzle piece necessary for healing and wellbeing.