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Exploring potential mechanisms involved in the relationship between eudaimonic wellbeing and nature connection

Summary


Understanding how nature connection promotes psychological wellbeing can help decision makers more effectively address the diverse needs of urban residents

Associations between nature connection and positive health and wellbeing outcomes are well documented in the literature. What drives these associations, however, remains unclear. This essay examines the limitations in our current understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the relationship between nature connection and psychological eudaimonic wellbeing. The term “eudaimonism” is used to describe prime psychological functioning, which includes self-realization and living life in a full and purposeful way.

The discussion in this essay focuses on nature connection as a path to enhancing wellness versus alleviating illness. Nature connection, in this context, refers to the mix of feelings, beliefs and behaviors a person has towards nature. Some of the theoretical constructs supporting human-nature connections include biophilia, sense of place, therapeutic landscapes, and solastalgia (the distress felt by people who experience loss of solace and place attachment due to environmental degradation).

Some research studies seem to suggest that an increase in nature exposure will likely lead to improved health and wellbeing outcomes. This assumption needs to be challenged in relation to such factors as the type of nature exposure taking place, the type of nature setting in which it occurs, and the characteristics of the person receiving the exposure. Exploring an individual’s nature connection may be central to unlocking our understanding of how urban nature promotes eudaimonic wellbeing. For some people, purposeful living and spirituality may be important mediators of the nature connection-eudaimonia relationship.

The World Health Organization has called for access to green space being a part of children’s daily routines. Yet, a limited understanding of the underpinnings of the nature connection-eudaimonia relationship makes it difficult for policy-makers and urban planners to effectively address the diverse health-related needs of urban residents. Further investigation into two potential mechanisms are recommended: satisfaction of the psychological need of relatedness and fostering an intrinsic value orientation. It’s also recommended that future research explore how individual differences influence the nature connection-eudaimonia relationship.

Citation

Cleary, A., Fielding, K.S., Bell, S.L., Murray, Z., Roiko, A., (2017). Exploring potential mechanisms involved in the relationship between eudaimonic wellbeing and nature connection. Landscape and Urban Planning, 158, 119-128.

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