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How can nature improve our well-being?

Isn’t nature beautiful? In this article the University of Derby will explain the benefits of noticing nature’s beauty.

Our connection with nature

Recent evidence suggests that connection with nature is more important for mental wellbeing. However, we don’t understand how nature connectedness leads to improved mental wellbeing.

There’s been little research into this, but existing theories on the benefits of exposure to nature, such as (Attention Restoration Theory) ART, haven’t explained the benefits of connection so far. In order to help deliver programmes to improve wellbeing through nature, we first need to understand the mechanisms that bring about these benefits.

This will allow us to understand and promote the well-being benefits of nature and develop effective interventions such as green and social prescriptions.

Also, when we consider the crisis in biodiversity, it is important to provide narratives that show that nature matters for human wellbeing.

The benefits of nature

A research paper by Zhang and colleagues (2014) considered the role of nature’s beauty in nature connectedness and the associated benefits of wellbeing.

They looked at how a connection to nature is related to wellbeing. In two studies the authors found that people who experience positive emotion when seeing beauty in nature have higher well-being.

Figure 2.8: Happiness in nature Image shows a silhouette of a person on a beach, looking up to the sky at sunset. Image source: Pixabay (Accessed on 28.06.2021)

A global perspective of appreciating nature’s beauty

However, conflicting evidence is provided by Capaldi and colleagues (2017) who examined the relationship between nature connectedness, engaging with natural beauty, and wellbeing in four data sets from samples in Canada (2 data sets), Japan, and Russia.

Evidence is only one of the four samples (one of the Canadian samples) demonstrates that nature connectedness is only associated with wellbeing for people who see beauty in nature. Indeed, in the Russian sample, the strength of the relationship between nature connectedness and wellbeing actually became weaker as engagement with natural beauty increased.

In the remaining Canadian sample and the Japanese sample, no significant interaction between nature connectedness and engagement with natural beauty emerged.

Engaging with nature impacts well-being

Capaldi and colleagues found stronger and more consistent evidence that engaging with nature’s beauty impacts wellbeing because it enhances nature connectedness.

This suggests that engaging with the beauty of nature leads to a greater connection with nature; in turn, this leads to greater wellbeing.

Reference list

Capaldi, C. A., Passmore, H.-A., Ishii, R., Chistopolskaya, K. A., Vowinckel, J., Nikolaev, E. L., & Semikin, G. I. (2017) Engaging with natural beauty may be related to well-being because it connects people to nature: Evidence from three cultures, Ecopsychology, 9(4), 199–211.

Lumber, R., Richardson, M., & Sheffield, D. (2017) Beyond knowing nature: Contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty are pathways to nature connection, PLoS ONE, 12(5), e0177186.

Zhang, J. W., Howell, R., & Iyer, R. (2014) Engagement with natural beauty moderates the positive relation between connectedness with nature and psychological well-being, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 38, 55–63.

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