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Happiness is in our Nature: Exploring Nature Relatedness as a Contributor to Subjective Well-Being

Abstract

Nature relatedness (NR) describes the affective, cognitive, and experiential aspects of human–nature relationships (Nisbet in Environ Behav 41: 715–740, 2009). Evidence from three studies suggests that individual differences in NR are associated with differences in well-being. In study 1 (N = 184), we explore associations between NR and a variety of well-being indicators, and use multiple regression analyses to demonstrate the unique relationship of NR with well-being, while controlling for other environmental measures. We replicate well-being correlates with a sample of business people (N = 145) in Study 2. In study 3 (N = 170), we explore the influence of environmental education on NR and well-being, and find that changes in NR mediate the relationship between environmental education and changes in vitality. We discuss the potential for interventions to improve psychological health and promote environmental behaviour.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. Given the benefits of diverse types of nature—urban natural spaces, parks, and views of natural elements—here, we use the term nature to refer to both city and wilderness environments.

  2. We omitted the fourth knowledge subscale as we felt many of the items required such technical expertise as might only be found among individuals with a background in science.

  3. The NEP correlated positively with autonomy (r = .18) and personal growth (r = .19). The NEC was positively correlated with personal growth (r = .16). The Actual Commitment subscale of the Ecology scale had a positive association with positive affect (r = .15) and autonomy (r = .15), and the Affect subscale correlated positively with negative affect (r = .21) and negatively with environmental mastery (r = −.18).

  4. All variables met the assumptions of linear regression. Details of the regression analyses are available from the authors.

  5. Both the NEC and Ecology-Affect scales remained positively associated with negative affect, negatively associated with environmental mastery and positive relations with others, after adding NR to the model. Ecology-Affect was negatively associated with personal growth and self-acceptance. The NEC was negatively associated with purpose in life and life satisfaction. The NEP was marginally and positively associated with life satisfaction.

  6. The two sets of Alphas provided here and for subsequent measures indicate Time 1/Time 2.

  7. In the Time 1 survey, participants were asked to indicate how much, in general, they felt each emotion; the Time 2 survey asked participants to indicate how much, over the past several weeks, they felt each emotion.

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Acknowledgments

This paper was prepared while the first author was supported by a Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC), and with the support of a SSHRCC Standard Research Grant (410-2003-1643) to the second author. We wish to thank members of the CUHL Lab for their assistance with data entry.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth K. Nisbet.

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Nisbet, E.K., Zelenski, J.M. & Murphy, S.A. Happiness is in our Nature: Exploring Nature Relatedness as a Contributor to Subjective Well-Being. J Happiness Stud 12, 303–322 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-010-9197-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-010-9197-7

Keywords

  • Nature relatedness
  • Happiness
  • Well-being
  • Positive affect
  • Vitality
  • Environmental attitudes
  • Environmental education