In today’s age of high technology, research shows that our hunger for the natural world still endures. In fact, our connections with nature could just be the best medicine for people of all ages—improving our health, happiness, and well-being. Those same connections could also heal the planet.
Few would disagree that our natural and cognitive worlds have grown disconnected. Most of us, particularly children, spend far less time in nature today than in recent decades. There are no required classes in nature connectedness in our schools, nor is nature a well-utilized tool for teaching kids to critically think about the world around them. New research, however, suggests our relationship with nature may be deeply linked to our happiness.
We don’t have to look far into history to know that humans evolved in natural settings and were deeply connected to their ecological environments. In the 18th century, poet and writer, Samuel Johnson, wisely stated, “Deviation from nature is deviation from happiness.” Could those natural settings not only become an avenue by which we find happiness in the 21st century, but also provide new psychological insights that help motivate generations toward environmental sustainability?
Several particularly interesting studies were published recently in Environment and Behavior by John Zelenski and Elizabeth Nisbet. Not surprisingly, the studies found that our emotional connections with nature are predictive of our attitudes and the choices we make about living sustainable lifestyles. But in addition, the study also found a unique connection between…