PLYMOUTH, England — When was your last visit to the local park or botanical garden? It can be difficult for city dwellers to find the time for nature, but a new study finds making some room for trees, rivers, and flowers will do a world of good for not only your own well-being, but the planet as well.
Researchers at Plymouth University say that individuals who visit green spaces on a weekly basis, and feel a certain level of connection to mother nature, feel better physically and mentally. Besides that, people regularly visiting nature are that much more likely to make environmentally friendly decisions.
Mental health problems have never been more openly discussed in society, and at the same time the topic of climate change has become a divisive political debate. In the face of all that, this new research suggests that the answer to better individual and planetary health may be as easy as getting outside for a walk in the countryside more often.
Besides the University of Plymouth, this study was a collaboration between Exeter University, the University of Derby, and Natural England. It is the first ever single piece of research to examine the relationship between a connection with nature and human health, well-being, and pro-environmental action.
“In the context of increasing urbanization, it is important to understand how engagement with our planet’s natural resources relate to human health and behavior. Our results suggest that physically and psychologically reconnecting with nature can be beneficial for human health and wellbeing, and at the same time encourages individuals to act in ways which protect the health of the planet,” comments lead author Leanne Martin, from the University of Plymouth, in a release.
The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing responses to the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey. That initiative had measured respondents’ connection to nature through access to green spaces and frequency of nature visits. Participants were also asked how psychologically connected they felt to planet Earth.
“It’s a top priority for Natural England to unlock the potential of the natural environment to help address the challenges we are facing as a society: poor physical health and mental wellbeing; the climate change crisis and the devastating loss of wildlife,” says Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Natural England.
“These findings give vital new insights of the need to not just increase contact with nature, but about the sorts of experience that really help people build an emotional connection, which is key to unlocking health benefits as well as inspiring people to taking action to help their environment. We look forward to using the research as we work with our many partners to support more people from all walks of life to benefit from thriving nature,” he concludes.
The study is published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.