By Denise Joseph, J.D. & Louis Joseph, M.D. 
Open Sea Institute for Psychiatry, Wellness & Executive Performance Coaching
July 1st, 2023

Only a generation ago, an alien visitor to our country could land in just about any neighborhood and find unsupervised gaggles of children playing outside. A visitor might have seen them walking to or from school, to or from friends’ houses, or to and from recreational clubs. Just as easily, the visitor might have observed children playing hopscotch, playing pretend in the woods behind their homes, or just milling around in packs of two to ten on lazy summer days, full-sugar popsicles, lollipops, and ice cream cones hanging from their mouths.

Today’s alien would be as challenged to locate “aimless” children in the neighborhood as they would a payphone.

First coined by psychoanalyst Eric Fromm, the word Biophilia denotes the human tendency or instinct to seek relationships with the natural world. Scientists believe there is genetic basis for biophilic impulses in humans. Today’s adults are as equally divorced from nature as today’s children. During the march toward industrialization, private property and the ability to house human families in relatively sterile environments safe from the elements and predators, we humans have gradually forsaken intimacy with our natural surroundings for the presumptive safety and comfort of the indoors. However, it is scientifically proven that we have not lost our appreciation for the outdoors.

A growing body of research is showing that eco therapy, nature therapy, or, what Open Sea Institute terms, Eco Medicine, can assist will all manner of ailments from stress, depression, anxiety, PTSD and ADHD to chronic pain and compromised immune system function. Though science increasingly uncovers the whole-body benefits of nature-assisted therapy, the vast majority of healthcare providers simply cannot and do not offer nature-assisted therapies. Instead, therapies, interventions and coaching are most often administered in “strip mall” and “office block” environments that we believe do damage to the human psyche from the time an already taxed client or patient attempts to find parking in (sub)urban planning schemes that are both chaotic and profoundly uninspiring, or better suited to merchant commerce. Many sensitive souls will avoid intervention for this reason alone.

As we move into the future, Open Sea Institute asserts that there can be no realistic conversation around human healing without the meaningful incorporation of environmentally informed therapies. As professionals able to elegantly cultivate connection between the power of nature and the capacity for human healing and enrichment, Open Sea Institute has established a Healing Lodge and Site in the Nantahala National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range as we endeavor to reverse the hundreds-years movement away from Nature as Primary Healer. Open Sea Institute introduces our programming in Eco Medicine with treatment accompaniments including, but not limited to, Biofeedback, Animal-Assisted, Movement-Assisted, Art-Assisted and Mindfulness Interventions. Luxuriously appointed and seamlessly sited amidst the tall and proud peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range, Open Sea Lodge at Nantahala Water Mountain is situated in a primeval mountain forest where our community can experience North America’s most biodiverse flora and fauna at dramatic elevations.

Nantahala Water Mountain at Open Sea Lodge provides the ideal environment for any number of integrated natural engagements and active OSI Community Members will be offered the opportunity to visit The Lodge for personalized programming throughout the year at no additional cost. Open Sea Lodge at Nantahala Water Mountain is ideal for individuals and groups seeking a neutral and relaxing environment to explore and resolve challenges, gain insight, and experience growth.

Mindfulness does not need to be contrived and does not need to necessarily manifest itself in complicated yoga or meditation routines. Similarly, physical exercise does not need to express itself in overly bureaucratized and institutionalized sports teams, extreme expedition or marathon participation. Our culture of pathological competition, over-intellectualization and neuroticism has attached itself to the primitive use of our bodies and minds and has resulted in a degraded opinion of the profound physical, mental, and psycho-spiritual benefits of simply walking in the woods, for example.

Recently, OSI traveled to a mountainous, tropical foreign country to explore additional Open Sea facilities. Our realtor was a member of the country’s small but passionate Western Ex-Pat community. As my partner wandered the grounds testing internet signal strength, the realtor sat with me in a stunningly pretty room and excitedly explained that the way to meet people in this country was to join competitive athletic leagues including “ironman” and “ironwoman” marathon races. Because she saw me as physically fit, she “just knew I’d meet so many new friends.” Alarmed, as I had planned to spend my outdoors time casually hiking the vertiginous mountain trails behind my property, playing pretend with the local monkey population, doing yoga, and lounging on the beach and on my very extensive verandahs (and most certainly not participating in ironwoman swim-run-climb marathons), I inquired as to whether there were groups of people who met to play tennis, for example, but not to compete in an official, regimented team. I received a look of confusion, silence and eventually, a small “no…” I smiled and felt slightly sick.

This is exactly how we all forgot to “play outside” and how we reduced our relationships with Mother Nature herself to another “interest” or “award” line on a Linkedin profile.

Please consider a rediscovery with Self and Surroundings this season at:

* Active OSI Community Members will be offered the opportunity to visit The Lodge at no additional cost at the discretion of their Open Sea providers. Please inquire with your provider for information about participation and personalized programming.

Open Sea Lodge at Nantahala Water Mountain is approximately 1 hour from Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) and 2.5 hours from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). The Lodge is conveniently located minutes from Downtown Highlands, NC, a consummately charming and luxurious mountain-town retreat destination in the Southern United States that rivals Aspen in natural beauty and high-end offerings.