Reconnect With Nature and Save Your Health – and the Planet?

With everything we’re told is destroying the planet – pollution, global warming and people among them – is there any way to save it? Maybe, say the science types at the University of Plymouth. Their recommendation might just save your health, too.

It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that the simple act of connecting with nature weekly can improve your health. Getting outdoors improves physical health as well as lifting your spirits and doing your mental health a world of good, too. All of this is supported by new research from the team at Plymouth.

They also found that people who visit natural spaces on a weekly basis feel more connected to those spaces and to nature in general. It turns out that those feelings of connection to nature make us more likely to behave in ways that promote and support environmental health, too. We’re more likely to be involved in the conservation of natural spaces, recycling and other pro-environmental behaviors.

The findings of this research, which is a combined effort of researchers at the Universities of Plymouth, Exeter and Derby, along with the conservation group Natural England, were published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. The indication is that reconnecting with nature may be the key to “achieving synergistic improvements to human and planetary health.

This is the first time a single study has undertaken to examine the contribution of both contact with connection to nature to the health and well-being of humans and pro-environmental behaviors.

The research team investigated people’s interaction with nature with relation to their access to and use of greenspace and visits to nature and natural habitats. They connected this with the extent to which participants felt psychologically and emotionally connected to nature. Their data was drawn from responses to the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey. That survey was commissioned by Natural England as part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) social science research program.

Lead author Leanne Martin, of the University of Plymouth, said: “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 well-being, and at the same time encourages individuals to act in ways which protect the health of the planet.”

Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Natural England added: “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 well-being; the climate change crisis and the devastating loss of wildlife.

“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.”

It seems that what’s good for your health – physical, mental and otherwise – may also lead to positive outcomes for the environment and maybe even the planet. So go outside. Get connected with nature. Plant a tree or maybe clean up a park or even just your own yard. It’ll be good for you and for Mother Earth.

Keep the faith and keep after it!

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Story Source: University of Plymouth

Journal Reference – Leanne Martin, Mathew P. White, Anne Hunt, Miles Richardson, Sabine Pahl, Jim Burt. Nature contact, nature connectedness and associations with health, wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviours. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2020; 68: 101389 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2020.101389

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