Using Nature and Animals to Manage Anxiety


Richard. It's great to have you. A lot has been talked about the connection between mental health and nature mental health and animals. And I kind of want to start off in this place. I'm a big fan of social media loved or hated. It's probably here to stay and one of the things that I often see on social. Media's this meam that says the best antidepressant is a walk in nature and I know that you don't feel that nature replaces medical science. But you do feel that a walk in nature has real real support and real help for people who are suffering from depression. Can you talk about that for a moment? And that's new. When I wrote last child in the Woods College in two thousand five. This was ignored the impact of the natural world on human wellbeing on on health on cognitive functioning all of that pitted been in basically ignored and I could find maybe sixty studies because many of them were about the growing disconnect between children and they're for adults to and nature and some of the some of those studies dealt with the benefits and some of those studies with mental health and physical health. That is a drop in the bucket. Compared to how much money is spent researching just about everything else and it struck me that something. So large as the impact of the natural world experience on human health and wellbeing have been ignored. How could that be and as I looked into it? I was working with some neuro scientists. Them they were studying brain architecture development and young children and they were looking at all kinds of things and how that affected brain architecture development everything from parent child attachment to add daycare too dangerous neighborhoods in all of that and those things they were. Aim literally shapes the brain. You Early Childhood and I asked them on. Have you ever thought about how the natural world helped shape the brain young children experiences actual contact with the natural world? And they look at you with a blank face and they said what's nature and I understand that that science has difficult time defining nature. But you know I said to the neuroscientist. This isn't rocket science or and it isn't brain surgery. Come up with a hypothesis and tested hundred. Twenty trees pray or whatever. They still had trouble so I decided that was one of the reasons why this was so under. Studied is the blind spot in science about nature the rest of nature which we are part the second reason. Where does the research money come from? What till can you manufacturer? What thing can you commercialize out of that? Now there are some things I mean parks and outdoor hiking organizations things like that. There are some but for the most part people don't think about cert- certainly funders. Don't think about this as something that they can get something out of by funding. That's changing today. If you go to the chill nature network which you mentioned your introduction. We have a research library here that we built and it is for anybody in the world is free. And there are now probably. It's just tipped over one thousand studies. We have abstracts for him links to the original studies when they're available so it's gone from about sixty two over a thousand in about fourteen years after not existing before. I think that it's interesting. That one of the things you said and this really plays to the pessimist in me is. We don't want to tell people to go for walks because there's no funding for it and you can't make money it you know. We can't prescribe one. Walk a day or hug your dog every day that that's not something that you can fill at the pharmacy and this is kind of cancer. Balanced against the medication is important. Look at the advances that we've made with cancer by coming up with better treatments etc but I would even argue that taking somebody who is suffering from cancer and completely isolating them taking away their friends their support systems their animals and even a window would put them in more of a bad way than they already are. And I think that's what you're saying and you've talked about in your work. How animal assisted therapy is becoming one of the biggest healthcare trends and I don't think that's a bad thing but you also talk about the controversy surrounding it and then you back it up with science. Can you talk about animal? Assisted therapy for a moment. Because I I just find it absolutely fascinating. That people wouldn't respond to this favorably but I also understand that this is our culture. Everything is good and everything is bad seemingly at the same time I think it's more nuance than that. I think that most people understand that their dog helps them. You know most people get get it at this level and in terms of organized animals therapy whether it's dogs or or wine therapy with horses or going outside and connecting with wild animals. No matter what that is people necessarily understand that it's the science is coming now and the science is really interesting though that some of it is controversial but nobody. His watched a kid with disabilities in an equine therapy. A Horse therapy course assisted therapy. Setting cannot be not moved. It's very moving to watch this. One person who works in this field told me that her mother was bringing her child who is autistic to animal assisted therapy sessions which involved horses and he would ride horses with a helmet and somebody would lead the horse and he was. I think about nine years old and he had not talked ever and one day when they didn't go when they were supposed to to the horse. Therapy Her son walked into the living room and said there were horse. First Time she had heard him say a word so there are moving stories like that I talk about a woman another woman who is on the autism spectrum and she tells quite a moving story about not only how her service whose name is Cobo has her but how she has learned to help Cobo using some of the same techniques to Kobo. Us to help her so often. What is occurring is a kind of mutual. Azam is not one way. I don't want it to be seen as just what we get out of our relationship with other animals my promote something in the book called the reciprocity principle which basically holds it for every bit a healing that they give us hamels whether they are domestic or wild animals. Give us we need to give back to them. The same we need to protect them as they protect us.

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