As our planet faces growing threats of a warmer climate, deforestation and mass extinction of species, research on the relationship between humans and nature becomes increasingly relevant (and urgent). There is a history of the various benefits of connecting to our natural environment—including well-being, health, happiness, and a fulfilling life—and, in particular, how this connection can have an indirect effect on quality of life through good environmental practices. A new study also showed how that connection occurs in nuns.
Although the definition may vary in literature, the connection with nature broadly encompasses the appreciation and understanding of the interconnection between humans and other living organisms. Laura Berrera-Hernández, principal researcher, explains that she is more than a love of nature, and describes that connection as the act of «being aware of the interrelationship and dependence between us and nature, appreciating all the nuances of nature and feel part of it.» To evaluate this child-like feature, Berrera-Hernández and her team surveyed 296 students aged between 9 and 12 measuring their connection to nature so much (for example, asking how much they agreed that «humans are part of the natural world») such as their sustainable or pro-environmental behaviors («I separate empty bottles to recycle») and their happiness.
The results revealed a significant relationship between connection with nature and sustainable behaviors, which in turn impact happiness. This suggests that children who are perceived more connected to nature tend to more sustainable behaviors and therefore also have higher levels of happiness, a link that previous studies had also observed in adults. «Parents and teachers should encourage children to have more meaningful contacts with their environment, our results indicate that exposure to nature is related to their connection and, in turn, to sustainable behaviors and happiness,» he explains Berrera-Hernandez.