Reflecting on our nature: How mindfulness and self-reflection predict connection to nature.

As part of my work to find ways to improve our connection to nature, I do research into understanding what individual differences make us connected. The results of three of these studies have just been accepted for publication in the journal Ecopsychology. It’ll be a little while until it’s published, so a brief overview for now.

As covered in earlier blog posts, the research into human-nature relationships offers a few perspectives on what a connection to nature is. It can be our relationship commitment, a belonging to a wider community. Or it’s about emotional affinity, seeing nature as a source of awe and beauty, rather than an object of observation. Finally, it can be seen in terms of an extended sense of self, an identity that includes nature – a cognitive belief about our place in the natural world.

The approach in the 3 studies is perhaps best viewed in terms of the latter concept, the self and connectedness to nature. I was interested in self-directed thinking, those reflective thoughts that can improve our self-knowledge. This is a genuine interest about one’s own values and attitudes, and can also involve reflection on the emotions that contribute to self – therefore it does also link into the broader range of perspectives on a connection to nature. In fact, it also fits well with my personal definition of nature connection – a realisation of our shared place in nature, which affects our being – how we experience the world here and now; our emotional response, beliefs and attitudes towards nature.

Reflecting on our nature

Reflecting on our nature

We also measured a second type of self-directed thought, rumination – anxious self-attention related to fear of failure and self-worth with the expectation being that a connection to nature would be related to self-reflection, but not rumination. Self-reflection by definition is a conscious, reflective activity. So to add to the story, we also measured pre-reflective attention, or mindful attention, which enhances current experience ‘in the moment’ – such trait mindfulness is already known to predict a connection to nature.

By getting lots of people to fill in the measures of self-reflection, rumination, trait mindfulness  and connection to nature we were able to show that, as expected, self-reflection and mindful attention predicted greater nature connection, whereas rumination was associated with lower connection to nature.

Then, we did it all again, but added a measure of personality to check that self-reflection was associated to nature connection independently of a broader range of individual differences. Interestingly, self-refection emerged as a greater predictor of connection to nature than mindfulness. There’s a fuller story of the role of personality in the full paper.

DSC_0449b

A place to reflect

 

Finally, given my interest in finding ways to improve our connection to nature, the third study looked at the relationship between self-reflection, mindful attention and increases in nature connection. Here, self-reflection was the only predictor. The results are discussed within a pre-reflection and intentional self-attention model (PRISM) where connection to nature is associated with mindful attention, but more directly, self-reflection. So, by looking inward we can realise a closer connection to nature. From an applied perspective we should find ways to promote self-reflection, especially in nature – as being in nature is known to promote reflection. So places to pause in nature, and ways to prompt reflection are worth exploring.

 

 

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About Miles

Applied psychologist researching our connection with nature and ways to improve it. Good for nature, good for you.
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2 Responses to Reflecting on our nature: How mindfulness and self-reflection predict connection to nature.

  1. Pingback: Nature: From Identification to Emotion. | Finding Nature

  2. Pingback: Why Our Connection with Nature Matters

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