Sandi Schwartz, Parenting and Children’s Author, Finding Ecohappiness
Finding Ecohappiness guides families in building regular habits of experiencing nature to reduce stress and boost mood. She explores key positive psychology tools from a nature-loving perspective. You will learn simple, practical tips for incorporating these tools―awe and gratitude, mindfulness, creative arts, outdoor play and adventure, volunteering, food, and animals―into your daily routine to help your children thrive and live a happy, balanced life.
KPB: Tell us about your books.
SS: I have two books that go hand in hand. My parenting book, Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer, features many fun, hands-on nature-loving activities for families to enjoy together. Filled with colorful images and activity checklists, my book is the first to offer a comprehensive toolkit of nature-based stress reduction tools for families with school-aged children. Topics addressed include awe and gratitude, mindfulness, creative arts, outdoor play, travel and adventure, volunteering, food, and animals. The companion children’s picture book, Sky’s Search for Ecohappiness, tells the story of a young girl’s quest to manage that feeling of uneasiness many children cannot quite name but know they feel. Backed by scientific research supporting nature-based stress reduction tools for school-aged children, this story invites readers to follow Sky on her journey as she discovers fun ways to feel happier and calmer using nature. Sky and her friends experience the relaxing and mood-boosting benefits of gratitude, mindfulness, kindness, and creativity in the natural world through yoga, painting, volunteering, playfulness, and awe. This helpful and entertaining story invites children to be present in their feelings and take some manageable steps to balance them.
KPB: What brought you to write this book?
I want to help people — especially children — who are struggling with mental health issues, and I also want to save the planet at the same time. I want to share what I have learned about using nature as a positive tool to help me feel more balanced in my life. So many people are struggling with mental health issues, including many children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year one in five American children — 15 million kids — are diagnosed with a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. Nature is a simple tool for families to explore to help them feel happier and calmer. It may not be the only solution, but it is a part of the puzzle for better wellness.
The idea of ecohappiness came to me a couple of years ago as my worlds were colliding. As I mentioned, have been passionate about the environment since high school. Then I have my struggles with stress and anxiety, which have been part of my life since I was a young child. I did not really know much about what anxiety was and I did not do anything about it until after I had my first child. I experienced postpartum anxiety and noticed how stressed I would get and how it made me feel so crummy. I began to have distracting, and oftentimes, troubling physical sensations, so I embarked on a research journey to figure out what I could do to better manage my stress and anxiety in natural ways.
This led me to the wonderful world of positive psychology, which focuses on our strengths instead of weaknesses to thrive. Some positive psychology tools include mindfulness, gratitude, volunteerism, and being in awe. I then began researching and writing about positive psychology and eventually turned my focus to these tools through a natural lens. Hence, the Ecohappiness Project was born!
Ecohappiness is all about connecting to nature to feel happier and calmer. Spending time in and around nature is so beneficial to our health and well-being. It calms us when we are feeling stressed and boosts our mood when we are feeling down. What is fascinating about this topic is that there are now so many research studies that have come out in the last few decades connecting nature to improving mental health. It is also a fun area to be involved with since there are so many incredible ways to tap into the healing power of nature, from hiking and bike rides to visiting nature centers and science museums to volunteering outdoors. My parenting book captures both the science behind how nature can improve mental health and also the many nature-loving activities that families can enjoy together. The children’s book is a companion to the parenting book to help children understand their emotions and the ways that nature can help them feel better.
KPB: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
SS: Now that both of my books are published, I am spending the majority of my time marketing them both. I have been writing guest blog posts and newsletter articles, posting on social media, doing podcast interviews, speaking at both in-person and online conferences and events, and reaching out to libraries and specialty stores. It is a great deal of work, but I am so passionate about spreading ecohappiness to others and I know these books are such important resources, especially as children are struggling more with mental health these days.
KPB: Do you have any advice for authors on how to market their books?
SS: My biggest advice is to take the time to write a marketing plan. I have a large Word document with all of my goals and tactics and then I also keep the individual tasks organized on a spreadsheet. This helps me track what needs to get done. I can easily move tasks around and push them to the next month if necessary. I also recommend focusing on podcast interviews. They are easy (you can do them from the comfort of your home), free, and fun. I have met so many amazing people from the interviews, and the conversations often lead to other opportunities for my business. I might even start my podcast soon!
KPB: What do you do to get book reviews?
SS: I created a launch team to help get book reviews. I provided participants with a few free giveaways and also free pdf copies of my books. I encouraged them to head over the Amazon to leave a review if they choose. I think as authors we need to let people know how important reviews are to the success of our books. It is not something most people would even think about.
KPB: Which authors inspire you?
SS: The idea for my parenting book was inspired by two authors in particular. Although I have never met Richard Louv and Gretchen Rubin in person, their paths to success inspired me to pursue my dream to become a published author. They are both journalists turned award-winning authors who do not hold lots of letters after their names. Richard writes about children and nature and is known for coining the term “nature-deficit disorder.” He went on to pen several books on the topic and founded the Children & Nature Network, of which I am a member. Gretchen’s various books, including The Happiness Project, spurred my interest in happiness and positive psychology. When I decided to write a parenting book, I was concerned that I did not have a Ph.D. or M.D. However, I knew I had an important message to share about nature and mental health, and am an expert in communicating science topics to a general audience. After reading Richard’s and Gretchen’s work and learning about their background, I knew that I could follow in their footsteps to get my book out into the world as well. I am thrilled that Richard Louv has now endorsed my book. He declared, “In a time when children are under unprecedented environmental and social stress, Sandi Schwartz makes an impassioned and practical case for focusing on nature connection as a way to build their mental health, resilience, and happiness. Finding Ecohappiness is, in short, a prescription for reducing the loneliness of our species.”
KPB: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
SS: Please head over to http://www.ecohappinessproject.com. I have tons of blog posts, articles, interview recordings, and other resources on there. I have a free Ecohappiness Challenge Calendar that you can download from the homepage and a free Nature Habit Quiz that you can take to get loads of nature activity ideas for your family. You can find both of my books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, and other vendors. All the buying options are also listed on my website.
To purchase click the link here: Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer. Let us know what you think of the book!