Why is nature beneficial? The role of connectedness to nature

Posted by Siru Heiskanen on Nov 22, 2016

Authors: Mayer, F. S., Frantz, C. M., Bruehlman-Senecal, E. and Dolliver, K.

Year of publication: 2008

Publication: Environment and Behavior, 41(5), pp.607–643.

Keywords: nature, happiness, nature connectedness,

Link to publication

Exposure to nature has been known to decrease negative behaviours (i.e. aggression, anxiety, depression) and increase positive ones (i.e. health, cognitive capacity) through stress-relief and attention restoration. Researchers wanted to find out if nature connectedness – how integrated one feels with nature – could also be a mechanism behind the positive effects, and if it could also influence more complex cognitive-emotional processes, such as reflecting on a life problem.

To address these questions, studies were conducted where participants spend 15 min walking in a natural setting, an urban setting, or watching videos of natural and urban settings. They completed memory tests to measure how the experimental environment affected their attentional capacities, and their sense of nature connectedness and ability to reflect on a life problem were measured with questionnaires.

The study found, that exposure to nature increased:

  • Connectedness to nature
  • Attentional capacity
  • Positive emotions
  • Ability to reflect on a life problem

This was true for both the real and virtual nature exposure, but was more dramatic for actual nature.

Connectedness to nature was found to be the mediator of nature’s effects on well-being. Researches concluded, that exposure to nature helps restore energy drained by our modern lifestyles, but that is not the only cause for the beneficial effects of nature: people have a need to feel a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves, and this need can be fulfilled by connectedness to the natural world.


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