Nature Connection has kept me really busy over recent months, the growing interest is great, but I’m understanding the restorative effects of nature more and more! So far in 2016 i’ve written, and had accepted, five research papers and the Nature Connections 2016 conference took place last month – see the story here. Next up is one project that’s going to keep me (and several others) busy for the next 3 years. IWUN: Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature has been awarded £1.3 million from the Natural Environment Research Council – part of the human health and wellbeing goal of the Valuing Nature programme. Although we know that spending time in with nature is good for people, the project will investigate the dose and which particular features of green space boost people’s health and personal enjoyment.
How can we use smartphones to connect with urban nature?
Our team, based at the University of Derby, is leading one of the 4 work packages needed to investigate these issues. We’ll be developing a smartphone app to record how people interact with their local green spaces, prompting them to notice the good things in nature – as noticing the good things in nature helps people get connect with nature. And better connection increases the use of green spaces and makes people feel better. A two-year Research Assistant post is available.
Take a moment to notice urban nature
We’ll be working closely with The Wildlife Trusts to get people involved and to share the benefits. As the project gets underway we’ll be working with others to share the story of the ongoing research and the findings, so that the benefits of urban nature become well known.
Technology is often cited as a reason for our disconnection from the natural world, but there’s not a great deal of research in this area. Recently smartphone technology has become common and a colleague (Dr Zaheer Hussain) and I have just completed a study looking at phone use and connection with nature.
Last year we evaluated the impact of 30 Days Wild for The Wildlife Trusts. The results were excellent and the resulting journal paper has just been published – so you can read the full 5000 words here. This blog is a short summary, but focussing on an exciting aspect of the results which is only a small part of the article.
Evaluation of 30 Days Wild Published in PLOS: ONE
This blog introduces key points from our 6500+ word review paper. The paper summarises the benefits of nature for health, wellbeing and restoration and argues that there should be action to bring nature into the workplace to address major challenges such as work related stress and ill-health. At present, workplace health programmes don’t tend to consider nature as a solution despite the health benefits of nature being known for many years. This mirrors, and is perhaps driven by, the wider societal dissociation from nature. In addition to simple exposure to nature, there is also evidence that a connection to nature is good for well-being and has a positive impact on valuable workplace factors such as vitality, creativity, happiness, pro-social behaviour and pro-environmental behaviour. The paper also reviews and summarises those benefits. I tried to capture it all in the figure below.
Connecting with nature should be part of every child’s life as it has the potential to aid nature’s revival while benefiting the child. However, to embed nature connection within our social norms, there is a need to understand the benefits a connection with nature can bring. In order to supply evidence to support greater integration of nature into children’s lives, we were commissioned by the RSPB, through funding from Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, to look at the links between connection with nature, education, well-being and pro-nature behaviours.
The Impact of Children’s Connection to Nature
The first Nature Connections conference last year was a great success and Nature Connections 2016, a second Interdisciplinary Conference on Getting Connected to Nature, will take place at the University of Derby, Wednesday 15 June 2016.
January is a time when diets and fitness come to the fore, with 10,000 steps a day being a popular target. Such calls have wormed their way into my mind and while walking through the woods in the rain the other day I thought about steps in nature – if people are working towards 10,000 steps each day, there’s good reason to make several thousand of them in nature.