Research shows nature makes us happy - and connection may inspire conservation

Mojave National Preserve

Flickr, Jon Sullivan

Our connections with nature may not only determine our happiness but also our attitudes about protecting the environment, according to new studies.

Studies published earlier this year in the journal Environment and Behavior sought to better understand how our connection with nature may relate to our happiness. Researchers John M. Zelenski and Elizabeth K. Nisbet at Ontario’s Carleton University called this phenomena “nature relatedness.”

Zelenski and Nisbet’s first study found that nature is unique in its ability to make us happy. They also concluded that there is a correlation between nature and well-being, suggesting that nature could be important for positive mental health.

The researchers conducted another study to investigate whether nature relatedness could also actually predict happiness. This second study had significant findings as well, according to Psychology Today:

  • Our connectedness to the natural world is distinct from other connections, such as to family or society.

  • Nature relatedness often predicts happiness in spite of other influences.

  • Connection to nature may help foster attitudes related to sustainability, and therefore could be important for conservation efforts

Watch a video below of Zelenski and Nisbet discussing their research:

These pioneering studies are exemplary of the recent exploration of overlaps between the fields of ecology, psychology, philosophy and health. These explorations are at least partially the result of concerns about the growing disconnection between people and nature. Youth in particular are at risk of growing up in a world inundated by technology and isolated from the outdoors, and are therefore also at risk for various health issues like obesity and mental illness.

The Wilderness Society understands how important nature is to our health. We work to protect lands so that there will always be places for Americans to relate to nature - and to be happy!

We also understand that connection to nature is vital for the stewardship of America’s precious wild lands. If you find happiness in America’s wild places, consider supporting our work. Your help is sure to continue to make Americans happy for generations to come.