What is Ecopsychology?

Ecopsychology is at the intersection of ecology (the study of relationships between living organisms) and psychology — the study of the human mind. Ecopsychology brings these two disciplines together by recognizing the interconnected nature of existence and that suffering and pain is not only felt on an individual level. 

Rather, individual well-being is connected to ecological and community well-being, and individual health and stability is only possible when we have a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship with each other and the natural world. 

Ultimately, ecopsychology seeks to enhance relationships between individuals and the non-human world and to foster feelings of interconnectedness. Healing comes from our ability to mend the gaps between individual & other and between human & nature. 

It is important to reflect on the teachings of ecopsychology when discussing the therapeutic benefits of the natural world. While spending 30 minutes in nature may ease feelings of discomfort, it does not get at the root of our suffering. Rather, we must use the time we spend in nature as a tool to heal the nature-human divide and to recognize our oneness with the earth. 

Once we realise this truth, that humans and nature are one, we begin to see the real value in practicing reciprocity with the natural world. It is not enough to simply reap the benefits that nature has to offer. Instead, we must take care of the earth, as she takes care of us. There is healing in reciprocity. 

Practicing Reciprocity 

Robin Wall Kimmerer — a member of the Potawatomi Nation and a professor of plant ecology — in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, brings together indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge in her discussion of reciprocity. On page 126, she wrote the following:

“People often ask me what one thing I would recommend to restore the relationship between land and people. My answer is almost always, “Plant a garden.” It’s good for the health of the earth and it’s good for the health of people. A garden is a nursery for nurturing connections, the soil for cultivation of practical reverence. And its power goes far beyond the garden gate – once you develop a relationship with a little patch of earth, it becomes a seed in itself.”

~ Robin Wall Kimmerer

I think about this often; it may be the best piece of advice I’ve ever received. 

I echo Kimmerer’s call to action. Plant a garden, if you have the time, space, and means to. If not, get a potted plant for your home, nurture it, and watch it grow. 



Kimmerer, R.W. (Sept. 16th, 2013). Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions.

Nature is Therapy

Artist Andy Goldswoorthy once said, “We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.” 

The prevailing Western conception of nature is of something separate from human beings and there is a long colonial history associated with the divergence between humans and nature. What’s more, research suggests that this divergence has negative consequences for health and well-being. 

In our vastly disconnected modern world, many people enter therapy in the hopes of connecting with themselves. And while therapy is an important step in the process of connecting with oneself, as long as we are estranged from and acting destructively towards the land, we are disconnected from and harming an aspect of ourselves.

Nature, Health, and Well-Being

Connecting with the natural world is essential for well-being. Spending time in nature is associated with positive health and wellbeing benefits.

Fascinating research has shown that simply viewing a natural setting through a window improved patients recovery from a medical procedure. The same results were found by adding a live plant to a hospital room. These are exciting discoveries because it tells us that the health and well-being benefits of nature go beyond the benefits of exercise which is often a part of spending time outdoors, or other factors such as sunlight or fresh air. What these results tell us is that there is something inherent in nature (or natural spaces) that has restorative and healing benefits. 

Being outdoors and spending time in nature can decrease symptoms of stress, anxiety, and isolation, and improve cognitive processes. Spending just 30 minutes in a natural environment a few times a week can have a lasting impact on well-being. You do not need to go on a wilderness adventure to experience the benefits of nature, but rather, a walk in your neighbourhood, or a visit to the local park are great ways to get outdoors. 

Disparities in Accessing the Therapeutic Benefits of Nature

Sadly, connecting with nature may be more difficult for some than others. The outdoor spaces in the United States are entangled with a racist and colonial history of indigenous communities being forced out of their homes and the outdoors has been the backdrop of slaverly and racial violence. 

Moreover, today the outdoor industry greatly lacks diversity and representation, and there are many barriers to outdoor recreation, such as the costs of transportation and gear. When discussing the mental health benefits of connecting with nature, it is important to recognize that the outdoors is not yet a safe or inclusive space for everyone. 

There are many ways to make the outdoors safe and inclusive for all. For example, it is important to support organizations that provide opportunities, resources, and outdoor education to communities that are underserved. For example, Memphis Roxs is a climbing gym and community in Memphis in a primarily Black neighborhood that offers access to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay for a membership. Donating to or volunteering at an organization like Memphis Roxs helps provide a unique opportunity for many people who would not otherwise have the means to experience this sport. To learn more and support Memphis Roxs, click here.

Alongside supporting programs and organizations like Memphis Roxs, we must also be  welcoming to new faces in outdoor space. Oftentimes in the outdoor industry there is a collective mindset that spaces should be kept secret for the “locals” and that people should not be recreating outdoors if they do not have top of the line outdoor gear.  

This mindset creates an outdoor culture that is unwelcoming. Rather than keeping the spaces exclusive for a select few, share information with new visitors on how they can enjoy the spaces safely and respectfully. Be kind and helpful to everyone, regardless of their gear or their skill level. 

As we all navigate the ongoing pandemic lock downs, being in nature is a safe and responsible way to spend time away from your home. Ultimately, the outdoors can be a space for healing. There are so many little ways to engage with the natural world from planting a garden, to walking in your local park. Challenge yourself to spend 30 minutes outdoors today and pay attention to how it makes you feel. 

Of course, if you’d like accountability in making positive life changes — like increasing the amount of time you spend in nature — we’re happy to help. California Women’s Therapy is currently accepting new clients for virtual psychotherapy. Learn more by visiting www.CaliforniaWomensTherapy.com

This blog was written by Rachel Lansman, an intern at California Women’s Therapy.



Lifestyle Changes That Can Reduce Joint Pain

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 50 million adults are diagnosed annually with some form of chronic joint pain due to arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that with age comes aches and pains.

But joint pain does NOT have to be inevitable. In fact, some joint pain is a result of lifestyle choices, such as poor diet and lack of exercise.

This, of course, means you can effectively make certain lifestyle changes that can reduce joint pain and improve function. Here are some ideas to get you started down a path of less pain and stiffness:

Maintain a Healthy Weight

According to The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), obesity is one of the most common diseases that affect bone and joint health. Losing weight not only relieves pressure on your joints, but it can also reduce joint degeneration.

Get Regular Exercise

Obviously, exercise can help you lose weight, but there are other benefits to moving your body. Regular exercise increases strength and flexibility, which is important for joint health. Now, depending on the severity of your joint pain, certain exercises may be off the table. For severe pain, consider walking, biking, and swimming as these exercises are gentle on your joints.

Eat a Healthy Diet

There are two phases to eating a healthy diet:

  • Phase 1 – Eliminate processed foods that are high in refined sugars and trans fats. These cause inflammation throughout the body that causes joints to be stiff and painful.
  • Phase 2 – Eat more foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation in the body. These foods include fatty fish, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Quit Smoking

Smoking prohibits your body from healing itself and also reduces blood flow. This makes it hard for your joints to recover from injuries and inflammation. Not only will quitting smoking help joint pain, but it will also improve your overall health as well.

Seek Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic is often used as a complement to conventional treatments for joint pain. Chiropractic adjustments can reduce the restrictions or misalignments in your spine and other joints. One study found that adjustments helped normalize inflammation for individuals suffering from low back pain.

Joint pain can also sometimes come from poor posture and spinal alignment, and chiropractors can help you solve that issue as well.

If you suffer from joint pain and would like to explore chiropractic care, please call our office. We’ll be more than happy to discuss how adjustment might finally bring you some relief.


Get Some Sleep! 5 Tips for Busting Through Your Insomnia

If you find yourself struggling to fall or stay asleep, you’re not alone. Insomnia, the chronic inability to get sufficient sleep, is a common problem affecting millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 study, more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a daily basis.

With a lack of sleep at the root of serious medical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, getting a decent amount of sleep on a regular basis is crucial to a long and healthy life. Here are five things you can do to change your routine and start getting to, and staying, asleep.

1. Just Two Things in Bed
Make sure that your bed is used only for two things: sex and sleep. By using your bed almost exclusively for sleep, your body will associate your bed with rest and relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep.

2. Exercise Regularly
Getting regular exercise (the recommended thirty minutes a day, five days a week) will help you promote healthy sleep habits. Your post-exercise temperature may promote falling asleep, and exercise in general will help eliminate insomnia by decreasing arousal and anxiety.

3. Naps, Caffeine, & Alcohol
Short naps are helpful for some, but for others it impacts their ability to fall asleep. If you’re struggling with insomnia, avoid naps during the day. Caffeine, a known stimulant, may keep you up longer than you’re aware. You may need to avoid caffeine entirely if it prevents you from falling asleep. And, while alcohol is a sedative, it can disrupt your sleep; so if you have trouble staying asleep, avoid alcohol.

4. No Screens Before Bedtime
Screen time, such as computers, smart phones and television, prevent you from falling asleep due to cognitive stimulation. Too much light at bedtime affects your melatonin production, giving your body the impression that its staying awake, not ready for sleep. Help your body get ready for sleep by eliminating screen time at least two hours before bed.

5. Create a Nighttime Routine
Creating a regular nighttime routine will help your body get into the habit of winding down and relaxing as it prepares for sleep. Create a nighttime routine an hour or two before bed. Maybe have a glass of warm milk, brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and read a book every night before bed. Make sure you go to bed around the same time every night too, including weekends.

Changing old habits and establishing a new routine is never easy. But as you make changes and sustain new practices, it will get easier. Before long you’ll have a new set of healthy habits, and you can finally settle in for a good night’s sleep.

Are you struggling with insomnia and need help maintaining healthy sleep habits? A licensed professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

Ergonomic Tips for Continuing to Work from Home After Coronavirus

Many of us have found ourselves working from home because of the coronavirus. And while the country has slowly begun to open back up, threats of a “second wave” have emerged, which means a majority of us could be working from home for the foreseeable future.

Working from home may be helping us all save on gas expenses, but it sure is putting a crimp in many backs and necks! That’s because many people working from home did not have a dedicated home office to begin with. And so we find ourselves working in less than ideal ergonomic situations as we work on sofas, bookshelves and on top of our beds.

With this in mind, here are some ergonomic tips to help your body feel more comfortable working from home:

Use a Separate Monitor

Looking down all day at your laptop screen can really hurt your neck. You ideally want to be looking straight ahead. If you have a desktop home computer, use this instead of your laptop as it will help you look straight ahead while working. If you don’t, consider getting a monitor that you can attach to your laptop so you can keep your head elevated.

External Keyboards and Mouse

If another larger monitor is not within your budget, consider getting an external wireless keyboard and mouse. This will allow you to use your laptop as a monitor and raise it using a laptop riser or stack of books while you type and control the screen separately.

Invest in a Better Chair

You ideally want a chair that offers cushioning and is height adjustable. Keep in mind you get what you pay for. While not everyone can afford a $1600 Aeron chair, suitable ones can be purchased for $200 – $300. Also, keep in mind that work-related chairs and desks are tax-deductible.

Move Your Body

Your body shouldn’t be seated all day long. It’s important to get up every half hour and move around. Do some stretching and take some nice deep breaths. If you get easily caught up in your work, then use an app reminder such as UP or Stand Up.

Visit a Chiropractor

If, after following these guidelines, your body still feels sore, it may be time to visit your local chiropractor. They will be able to tailor a program to deal with your specific physical issues.

If you are in the area and would like to work with a chiropractor to get your body feeling better, give us a call or stop by our office. We can tailor a treatment plan for your specific needs.


5 Foods to Keep Your Immune System Strong

As the events of COVID-19 continue to unfold, many of us are focusing on how we can keep ourselves and our families as healthy as possible. While social distancing and increased hand washing can be very effective at stopping the spreading of the Corona virus, it is equally important to keep our immune systems strong.

With this in mind, here are some of the absolute best foods you can eat to help support your immune system:

1. Blueberries

Blueberries are loaded with powerful antioxidants. In fact, they contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can boost your immune system. A 2016 study found that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system. The researchers found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get sick with respiratory tract infections and the common cold.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric is the aromatic spice that makes curry yellow. It is also often used in alternative medicine thanks to its active compound curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to improve a person’s immune response because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

3. Spinach

Popeye knew that spinach would help him be stronger. But I wonder if he knew how good it was for his immune system. Spinach contains vitamin C & E, as well as beneficial flavonoids and carotenoids. Not only are vitamin C & E great for the immune system, but research shows flavonoids may help prevent common colds in otherwise healthy people. So, it stands to reason it may help protect against other viruses as well.

4. Citrus Fruits

Most of us, when we feel an illness coming on, reach for more vitamin C-rich foods. But what is it about vitamin C specifically that makes it so good for our immune systems?

Vitamin C is believed to increase the production of white blood cells. These are the cells responsible for attacking foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses.

Some popular citrus fruits high in vitamin C include:

  • grapefruit
  • oranges
  • tangerines
  • lemons
  • limes
  • clementines

Unlike other animals whose bodies do produce vitamin C, humans must get their vitamin C from the foods they eat or through supplementation. So be sure to add more citrus fruits to your diet.

5. Red Bell Peppers

We can’t talk about vitamin C without mentioning that ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain even more vitamin C than most citrus fruits. So if you prefer veggies to fruits, then be sure to eat more red bell peppers.

While this is not an exhaustive list of immune-boosting foods, it will get you started eating right so you can stay healthy during this pandemic. It’s also important to stay hydrated and eliminate sugars and trans fats from your diet as well.