How The Concept Of "Rewilding" Can Transform The Way You Interact With Nature
For years as a therapist and conservationist, I've witnessed—in group circles, on social media, with clients, and within myself—a collective mourning for a loss of community and connection. I've felt a sense of impending ecological disaster and seen desperate searches for embodied, purposeful, and wildly free ways of life. Mostly these are subtle and unconscious pleas to reclaim untamed parts of ourselves that have been stored away. They are messy, beautiful, and difficult, all at once.
The word "rewild" is defined as "the planned reintroduction of a plant or animal species [...] into a habitat from which it has disappeared, in an effort to increase biodiversity and restore the health of an ecosystem." Psychological rewilding, as I define it, is the restoration of our own native, inner ecosystems as humans. It builds upon the notion that Nature is not merely defined by the blades of grass, the great outdoors, or wild animals—it is just as much one's internal design and psyche. There is no "inside of us" versus "outside of us."
Similar to ecopsychology, psychological rewilding is a way to explore your truest nature and the inherent interconnectivity between yourself and the world around you, which so many of us have stifled. I believe it can pave a new way forward for individuals, communities, and ecosystems at large. Here are five ways, as outlined in my Elemental Rewilding practice, we can all initiate our own rewilding and partake in this shift:
- Connect to and preserve the natural world.
- Participate in rich, uplifting communities.
- Tap into the ancient, organismic intelligence of our own bodies.
- Find more creative outlets for unfettered self-expression.
- Share our stories without filtration or judgment.
So, how can we practice these steps during COVID-19? How, in the face of what feels like ruin, can there be recovery and restoration? It's still entirely possible—and crucial!—to embark on this lifelong process of individual rewilding during physical isolation.
How to connect to and preserve the natural world during quarantine.
Carl Jung, world-renowned psychiatrist, once said, "Whenever we touch nature we get clean." He, of course, did not mean clean in some sort of sanitary sense. He meant we get real and disinfect all of those extra layers of armor that modern life tames us with. Here are some ways to touch nature when you have limited access to the outdoors:
- Guide yourself through a meditation that features nature imagery and/or animals.
- Find a patch of grass and/or dirt to stand in for an earthing exercise.
- Go on a slow and thoughtful drive in a nature-filled area with the windows rolled down, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. (Doing so can help regulate our nervous systems, reduce cortisol levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve mood.)
- Garden, even in a small windowsill box.
- Watch documentaries and footage of nature habitats and animals in the wild.
- Act and conserve. If you have a dollar to spare to donate to an organization preserving ecosystems, wildlife, fighting climate change—anything—you will experience your connection to nature through your engagement.
This is also a time to sit in contemplation, in stillness, just as the natural world often does. As you do, consider questions like:
- What is the cost of living the way many of us do in Western culture—in the name of convenience and attainment?
- What have we hunted out of our wild nature, our biological birthright as human animals on this Earth and of this Earth?
In my years of study, I have found that nature mirrors the inner cycles, rhythms, and pains many of us don't want to look at or deal with. Our degradation of the environment correlates with how we feel about ourselves. Rewilding helps us finding compassion for ourselves—mistakes, wounds, and all—and our surroundings.
Micha Thomas is an associate marriage and family therapist, a certified personal and executive coach, group facilitator, Reiki practitioner, and wellness and behavioral health consultant. She founded weREWILD, a research-based international organization that emphasizes conservation and therapeutic engagement with the natural world as vital to our own mind/body/spirit/health.
Thomas is also a program lead at Wolf Connection, an education and empowerment program, pairing rescued wolves with at-risk adolescents and adults. To learn more and find therapeutic and conservation resources and mental health assistance, visit weREWILD.