People who feel more connected to nature also tend to feel less anxious, according to new psychology research from Australia.
The preliminary study, conducted by Patricia Martyn and Eric Brymer, found that feeling connected to nature was directly related to small reductions in anxiety.
“The results of this study align with recent research and theoretical perspectives that posit health and well-being benefits from engaging with nature,” the researchers said.
But why is there a relationship between nature and anxiety?
Psychologists have theorized that the busyness of urban environments overwhelms our attentional capacities, while natural environments do not. Others have suggested that humans have an innate preference for natural scenery, which is associated with comfort and safety. And some have argued that humans evolved an instinctive tendency to seek connections with nature and other living things.
Noting the lack of research on the relationship between nature and anxiety, Martyn and Brymer conducted a simple study to start to explore this area of interest.
The researchers had 305 Australian adults complete an online survey that assessed their relatedness to nature and overall anxiety levels.
The survey also asked the participants “what being in nature” meant to them. A number of common themes emerged from this open ended question. The participants described nature as a source of relaxation, a “time out” from everyday life, a place to find enjoyment, a way to feel connected to something larger, an emotional regulator, and a source of beauty.
“The qualitative results suggest that the experience of nature for these participants provides an opportunity to take time out from everyday life, recuperate, experience fun and relax,” Martyn and Brymer explained.
The study was published in the Journal of Health Psychology.