Think about the last time you were stressed out or depressed about something. Hold that thought in your mind and ask yourself, “Was the stress due to something that happened in the past? Was it about something that may or may not happen in the future? How much of what I was anxious about has to do with right now, at this very moment, as I read this sentence?”
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to what is happening right now, in this moment.
By focusing on our experiences in the now, from moment to moment, we come to realize that we are free to choose which thoughts and feelings to pay attention to, and which thoughts and feelings not to focus on. This doesn’t mean that we’re trying to stop thinking or feeling. It means that we’re just making a conscious choice on how much attention to focus on those thoughts or feelings.
The past only exists in our memories. The future is only a projection of the past. Anxiety about future events is the result of playing the odds based on past experiences and expecting similar occurrences to happen in the future. Mindfulness is a way of using the present moment to choose what to believe about the past and the future. We can choose which memories to pay attention to, and which projections about the future to focus our attention on. Mindfulness isn’t about trying to make anxious or depressing thoughts and feelings go away. It is about choosing whether or not to dwell on such thoughts and feelings.
For most of its existence homo sapiens has lived in harmony with nature as hunter/gatherers. Such a lifestyle requires a vast knowledge of the seasons, and of the patterns and habits of wildlife, and of plants and herbs and their healing powers. Industrialization and urbanization are fairly recent phenomena on an evolutionary scale. We still carry the genetic memory of our ancestors who lived in untamed nature. Our brains are wired for the outdoors and nature. A growing body of research demonstrates that not only do we feel better when we make time for nature, it is actually a requirement for good physical and mental health!
The field of ecopsychology studies how humans interact with nature. Ecopsychology is a philosophy combining elements of psychology and ecology. It is the philosophy that mental health is contingent upon the health of the environment. Humankind and the environment are part of an interrelated system. We are not separate from nature. We are a part of nature.
At its core, ecopsychology suggests that there is a synergistic relation between planetary and personal well-being; that the needs of the one are relevant to the needs of the other. In short, what we do to the environment, we do to ourselves. Ecotherapy is the practical application of this knowledge. In ecotherapy nature is the “therapist.” In practicing the techniques of ecotherapy, we allow the healing power of nature to work its magic on us.
Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) is a blending of Mindfulness and Ecopsychology. MBE uses nature to facilitate mindful awareness. MBE is used as a framework for helping individuals and families to find deeper connections in their own lives, and to give more meaning and enjoyment to the activities of daily living.
Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) is a 12-week nature-based program. Each session meets outdoors for about 90 minutes and is guided by a trained MBE facilitator. The Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Workbook was designed to accompany the 12-week program. A facilitator manual is also available for mental health professionals interested in training in the program.