Speaking at the CPRE National Conference this year Professor Miles Richardson from University of Derby’s Nature Connectedness Research Group talked about the importance of nature to our wellbeing.
Miles explained that nature connectedness is a psychological construct that describes how close an individual’s relationship with nature is, so how much they enjoy nature and its beauty, how important it is to them, whether they feel part of nature and if they treat nature with respect. A systematic review of 32 studies by the research group showed that nature connection related to feeling good and functioning well. As well as improving wellbeing, those who are highly connected to nature are more likely to be concerned about climate change and want to protect the natural environment.
Miles suggests that the climate and environment emergency shows that our relationship with the rest of nature is broken and that to fix it we must be more connected. However, to be truly connected to nature we need to engage with it on an emotional and sensory level. We also need to recognise that we are part of nature and not separate and this relationship can be developed by embracing the following pathways to connect with nature:-
Contact – Tuning in to nature through the senses.
Emotion – Feeling alive through the emotions nature brings.
Beauty – Noticing nature’s beauty.
Meaning – Nature bringing meaning to our lives.
Compassion – Caring and taking action for nature.
Several environmental charities including the National Trust and RSPB have introduced ways for visitors to improve their connections with nature by applying these pathways. CPRE is now considering how we might champion the benefits of the countryside for our wellbeing, as we strive to raise awareness of why it matters so much to our society and future.
In the meantime, here are some suggestions of things you could do now to develop your nature connectedness.
Notice and actively engage with nature by listening to birdsong or touching the bark of a tree.
Engage emotionally with nature by taking a moment to reflect on your natural surroundings.
Take time to appreciate beauty in nature or enjoy an amazing view and perhaps capture it in a photo.
Explore how nature brings meaning to your life. Notice the changing season and the meaning they have for you.
Think what you can do for nature – feed the birds, use eco-friendly products, join CPRE!