Reese EcoWellness Inventory

Dr. Ryan Reese

I can recall being 8-years old climbing around trees, getting bitten by different critters, and fishing nearly every day of summer. At the time I did not realize what an important part nature played in my life, and never did I imagine that EcoWellness would be something that I contemplate on a daily basis. What I have come to learn and discover from the empirical literature on nature and wellness is that our relationships to other species and landscapes connects us to our inner essence, our feelings, our thoughts, and our relationships.

During my doctoral studies I was fortunate to study under Dr. Jane Myers, one of the leading proponents of wellness in the counseling profession. Together, we developed the wellness dimension of EcoWellness, the extent to which one’s connection nature impacts wellness. After the concept’s introduction (see Reese & Myers, 2012), the next logical step was to develop a way to measure EcoWellness with the purpose of identifying different aspects of one’s connection with nature that might be strengthened through counseling processes.  

After a thorough and rigorous review of the literature, I developed the Reese EcoWellness Inventory (REI), a 61-item instrument answered using a 4-point Likert Scale (Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree). The instrument is based on the following 7 constructs, each based on nature theory (i.e., Attention Restoration Theory; Stress Reduction Theory) and empirical research (example items from the REI can be found below):

•    Physical Access
•    Sensory Access
•    Connection
•    Protection
•    Preservation
•    Spirituality
•    Community Connectedness

I administered the assessment to over 1000 participants from around the United States.  After collecting the data, I analyzed over 800 completed response sets using a data reduction technique called confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). A CFA helps us take a lot of information and reduce it to a few vital components so we can make meaning of complex phenomena. The CFA reinforced these constructs (and their relationships with one another) as being part of and integral to EcoWellness, although more research is needed using diverse samples. I am also in the process of reducing the number of items on the assessment.

So how does EcoWellness apply to you and your everyday life? I invite you to think about your definition of nature and the ways that you previously have and currently connect with it. For example, I know that I have recently struggled to take the time to integrate nature into my daily life, even when living in a place such as Bend, Oregon! I am finding that I get caught up with the workday and my EcoWellness gets put on the back-burner. Instead of taking a moment to notice and be mindful of the trees and plants, notice the sunsets and wildlife, I find my mind to be absorbed in my obligations. As I write this, it is a good reminder for me to begin noticing nature more often—being more intentional in taking in the smells and absorbing the sights.  Doing so has been found to impact one’s overall sense of happiness and wellness! Also, I am reminded that I can always bring nature to me, whether it be through different scents (candles, incense, lotions, etc.) or taking a break and looking out my office window!

What about you? What is your current level of EcoWellness and how might you adjust aspects of your current behaviors to add intention and depth to your connection with nature to contribute to your overall wellness?

Example REI Items:

Nature surrounds me in my daily life.
I need to access nature to feel healthy.
Smells of nature are amongst life’s greatest pleasures.
I feel good about my carbon footprint.
I use renewable energy when I am able.
I go to nature to find peace.
I feel connected to all of life when in nature.