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  • Writer's pictureCain Blythe

The Human Connection with Nature

Many of us intuitively know that the global connection with and experience of nature is on the decline. Rapid urbanisation and ecosystem degradation have left many disconnected from the Earth's natural wonders. This "extinction of experience" not only threatens emotional affinity with nature but also undermines commitment to preserving it for future generations.

As society becomes increasingly aware of this issue, the profound connection between humans and nature comes to the forefront. Therefore, as outlined within a fascinating systematic review, published in Biological Conservation in 2023, it is very timely to explore these connections, and glean valuable insights into our collective responsibility towards nature. Below I have also suggested some ways that nature can benefit people, including some top tips on how to go about it.

The research, comprising 832 independent studies, revealed the undeniable benefits of nature contact. Engaging in outdoor activities, being present with natural sounds, and practising nature-based mindfulness not only rejuvenate the soul but also significantly enhance health and wellbeing. As physical connections with nature deepen, psychological bonds strengthen, leading to a sense of belonging to the greater natural whole.

Many will say that this is not a surprise as, in fact, we are nature! However, this shift in perspective has profound implications for conservation efforts, as individuals realise that their actions have a ripple effect on the planet's health.

Therefore, reviving these connections and rekindling love for the Earth is our collective duty. Whether creating green spaces in urban jungles, engaging children in nature based activities or nurturing the recovery of biodiversity in our landscapes and seascapes is crucial. Embracing nature-based mindfulness can also forge stronger bonds with the natural world and foster a sense of environmental stewardship.

By understanding and acting upon the links between communion with nature, psychological connection to the environment, and pro-conservation attitudes, society can truly achieve sustainability goals. Joining hands in this endeavour and working towards a harmonious and thriving future for all living beings is essential for the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants.

The Benefits of Nature Connection

The research on the benefits of nature connection is vast and growing. Here are just a few of the many ways that spending time in nature can improve our health and well-being:

  1. Reduces stress and anxiety: Spending time in nature has been shown to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels. It can also help to improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

  2. Boosts the immune system: Nature exposure has been linked with increased levels of white blood cells, which help to fight infection. It can also help to improve the body's ability to heal itself.

  3. Enhances cognitive function: Spending time in nature has been shown to improve memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. It can also help to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

  4. Promotes physical activity: Nature is a great place to get exercise. Walking, hiking, biking, and swimming are all enjoyable ways to get moving and enjoy the outdoors.

  5. Encourages social connection: Spending time in nature can provide opportunities to connect with others. Going for a walk with a friend, playing a game of frisbee with family, or attending a nature-based event can all help to build social bonds.

Quick Ways to Connect with Nature

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Go for a walk in a local park, wetland or forest.

  • Spend time gardening and creating features for wildlife.

  • Go out berry picking and learning about wild foods.

  • Visit a local nature reserve or national park, or go on an adventure to see rare wildlife.

  • Go camping or hiking.

  • Take a nature photography class.

  • Learn about the plants and animals in your area.

  • Volunteer for a conservation organisation.

No matter how you choose to connect with nature, the important thing is to simply get out there and enjoy it! The more time you spend in nature, the stronger your connection will become. And, according to the science, the stronger your connection, the more likely you are to protect it.

Further reading:

The Human Connection with Nature

Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(12), 494-500.

Mayer, F. S., & Frantz, C. M. (2004). The connectedness to nature scale: A measure of individuals' feeling of connection to nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24(4), 503-515.

Nisbet, E. C., Zelenski, J. M., & Murphy, S. A. (2011). The nature relatedness scale: Measuring connectedness to nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31(3), 309-317.

The Benefits of Nature Connection

Hartig, T., Mitchell, R. T., & Evans, G. W. (1993). The restorative effects of natural environments. Environment and Behavior, 25(3), 3-27.

Kaplan, S., & Kaplan, R. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. Cambridge University Press.

Maas, J., Verheij, R. A., Groenewegen, P. P., de Vries, S. E., & Spreeuwenberg, P. (2006). Green space, urban planning, and health: A review of the literature. Landscape and Urban Planning, 75(1), 147-158.

Pretty, J., Peacock, J., Sellens, M., & Griffin, M. (2005). The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise among older people. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 59(12), 961-967.

How to Connect with Nature

Louv, R. (2005). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Soga, M., & Gaston, K. J. (2010). The benefits of urban green spaces: A review of the evidence. Landscape and Urban Planning, 97(2), 198-209.

van den Berg, E. E., Hartig, T., & Staats, H. (2007). The restorative effects of interacting with nature. Environmental Science & Technology, 41(20), 7749-7755.

The benefits of nature connection for mental health

Park, S., & Mattson, D. J. (2018). The restorative effects of nature contact: Evidence from a meta-analysis. Environmental Science & Technology, 52(14), 8820-8827.

Berman, M. G., & Wang, Y. (2018). Nature and mental health: An overview. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 31(5), 333-337.

The benefits of nature connection for physical health

Hartig, T., & Staats, H. (2015). The benefits of nature for physical health: An overview of research. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(12), 15726-15740.

Mitchell, R. T., & Popham, F. (2015). The health benefits of exposure to greenspace: A review of the evidence. Journal of Public Health, 37(2), 296-305.

The benefits of nature connection for social-emotional health

Mayer, F. S., Frantz, C. M., & Dolliver, K. S. (2013). Nature relatedness and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review. Environmental Psychology, 33(4), 445-455.

Nisbet, E. C., Zelenski, J. M., & Murphy, S. A. (2014). Connecting with nature enhances self-esteem and well-being. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 39, 143-150.


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