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Embedment in the environment: a new paradigm for well-being?

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Disciplines
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine
  • Physics
  • Psychology

Abstract

Dominant models of health view people as essentially separable from their environment, affected directly by specific physical events or indirectly through idiosyncratic perceptions. Health is therefore a function of the individual, whether they are treated alone or in a group of similar individuals. A different (ecopsychological) view is that we are embedded within the environment; that notions of self, illness and well-being relate to where we are. Health practitioners and policy makers have realized that mind and body cannot be seen as being separate when promoting well-being, but 'self' and 'environment' is an equally false dichotomy. Although rarely acknowledged, we are continually interconnected via two-way physical interactions (electromagnetic, chemical and mechanical), and all we can know of the world comes via such interactions. Our concepts of self and other, health and disease, and all the relationships between them, are based on such interactions. If our environment changes, then these interactions change, yet our concepts often remain rigidly fixed. By introducing research into restorative, natural environments, the notion of adaptive mental states and the practices of ecotherapy, this paper offers an alternative view of well-being, shifting the emphasis away from the individual and his/her illness and instead inviting consideration of the more dynamic relationships between people and place.

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