Quality of Life

Environmental Psychology; Theory and Practice 


The natural world is re-emerging as a central feature of well-being, especvially as we get older. 


Eco-psychologists  claim that Quality of Life (QOL) is a result of a healthy

relationship with the natural world.  "Genuine sanity is rooted in the

natural world . . .", states Andy Fisher, ". . .the Earth, and the elemental

powers of nature exert a much more profound influence on the human

experience than is commonly known in the modern era" (Fisher, 2002, p. xvii).


     The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified 11 different health

indicators; generally defined as ". . . a state of complete physical, mental,

and social well-being; not merely the absence of disease and handicap

(WHO, 1948, p. 97).  It is increasingly difficult to seperate these aspects

of health; our mental (internal) health and happiness is tied to the quality

of our relationship with our (external) envirnments.


     The confluence of psychology, nature, and architecture implores us to widen

our perspectives of human health; what constitues a meaningful, purposeful life? 

What kind of built and natural environments are optimal?  Given such diverse

populations, are there universal elements we can employ in the creation of restorative envirnments?


      Debate continues about the cause and effect relationship between humans

and their environment, but lacking an agreement on the nature of psychological

health, this debate will continue.  I feel our mental health is a central feature of

our health and happiness; if we are depressed, e.g., we will not be physically or

socially motivated, and our QOL will suffer.  Thus, environments need to engage

people, literally and symbolically, and provide access to the inherent benefits

of nature.


     ". . . without environmental stimulation, the collective neurosis takes hold"

(Walsh, et al, 1992).  James Hillman, depth psychologist talks about the

importance of discovery, and the imaginative mind, especially as we age. 

How we inhabit our environments has a significant impact on

our QoL.  We need access to regenerating environments as well as

meaningful social interaction and recreational opportunities.  


"Those of us living within the repressive structures of the modern world tend to lose

touch with our own bodily felt experiences.  As a consequence, we become limited in our

ability to take guidance from our own feeling processes and vulnerable to ideological

manipulations of all kinds" (Fisher, 2002, p. xvii).


   If we accept the importance of a reconnection with the natural world, the challenge is to create a dialogue, and collaborate on programs and places that can restore a healthy relationship to our environments, and ourselves,  Environments may be recreational (social), or contemplative.  Once the design team identifies their goals, the elements needed to create positibe outcomes can be chosen and implemented.   I have included several examples in this site, which covers a wide range of services that re-orient our lives, and celebrate our connectedness to the natural world.





Without these reminders, without environmental stimulation, the collective neurosis

takes hold (Walsh, et al, 1992).







 Stephen  Pettengill

Horicultural Therapist

Landscape Designer
Portland, Oregon


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