Our affiliation with nature is deep-rooted and innate, with extensive research conducted by environmental psychologists continuing to outline this, through studies that demonstrate nature’s positive impact on our psychological, physical and spiritual wellbeing. The human-nature connection, as it is referred to, signifies the link between people and the natural environment. Interestingly, the factor which has proven to be crucial in achieving this positive impact, is the strength to which people feel a sense of connectedness between themselves and the natural world. This sense connectedness can relate to an appreciation of any natural phenomenon. This can be anything from listening to an awesome storm, to enjoying time taken to tend indoor plants, all of which inspire a sense of peaceful wonder in many. This want for connectedness is noticeable within other parts of everyday life, for example, have you even wondered why properties with scenic lookouts are sold for higher prices compared to their viewless counterparts? Or why the most coveted office spaces are those that permit tired eyes to gaze outside? It is our inbuilt desire to connect with nature that is responsible for these occurrences, and it appears that our ability to appreciate nature, and our place within it, is essential to enjoying all the benefits that it has to offer.
Exactly how nature leads to a greater sense of wellbeing is not yet fully understood. However, research suggests that experiencing the natural environment is, quite simply, an inherently pleasant sensory experience, that can alter how we think, feel and act. But what exactly are the measurable benefits that result from contact with the natural environment, and a feeling of connectedness between nature and oneself? A compilation of many scientific studies conducted across the globe, revealed that a sense of connectedness with nature is consistently linked to happiness. Combined, these studies demonstrate that nature leads to increased positive emotions and decreased negative emotions. Exposure to nature is consistently linked to decreased levels of stress, as indicated by a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol and through improvements in physical issues associated with stress, such as poor cardiovascular health and hypertension. Both anxiety and depression also appear to be less prevalent for individuals who have a greater sense of connectedness with nature. Research has consistently found that immersing oneself in nature, aids in the management and recovery of anxiety and depressive disorders. Additionally, nature connectedness has been found to increase attention and concentration, and assist people to regulate their emotions, all of which have a great impact on our overall sense of wellbeing and our ability to function adaptively.
Given the environmental crisis that we presently face, it is probable that a sense of connectedness with nature, not only enhance wellbeing on an individual level, but may also prove to be instrumental in addressing climate change. Feeling a strong sense of attachment to nature, has been shown to harvest pro-environmental behaviors. This means that a strong affiliation to nature, leads people to make the behavioral changes identified as necessary in combating climate change and global warming. What are the ways that we can we deepen our sense of connectedness to nature, and reap the reciprocal rewards that exposure to the natural environment can bring us and the planet? Research suggests that small, day to day experiences of nature, do make a real difference. Especially, contact with natural light, which has direct links to improved health, through aiding the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Ideally, this contact with nature would involve a wide variety of seasonal experiences. However, for those with limited access to natural environments, images or simulations of nature may also be beneficial. So, whether it’s hiking, surfing or simply eating your lunch outside, taking the time to appreciate nature and connect with the natural environment is worthwhile, not only for our own wellbeing, but also for the planet’s.
The links below are for walking paths in Victoria and a community garden finder: