Spending time in nature isn’t just good news for your health – it can help the planet, too

A new study from the University of Plymouth has revealed that spending time in nature could encourage us to engage in more environmentally friendly behaviours.

Many of us will already know that spending time in nature is a great idea for our mental and physical health. Whether it’s going for a walk in the forest, listening to the birds chirping in the trees or simply sitting on a bench at your local park, the benefits of going outside are well proven. 

And now a new study from the University of Plymouth has discovered a third potential benefit of going outside – it makes us more environmentally friendly.

According to the new research, which was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, individuals who visit natural spaces weekly – and feel psychologically connected to them – will not only feel better mentally and physically, they’re also more likely to engage in environmentally friendly behaviours which promote the health of the planet. 

The study is based on responses which were recorded as part of the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey, which was commissioned by Natural England as part of DEFRA’s social science research programme. Using this data, the team of scientists from the University of Plymouth, the University of Exeter, the University of Derby and Natural England looked at people’s engagement with the natural world, and the extent to which they felt “psychologically connected” to it.

“In the context of increasing urbanisation, it is important to understand how engagement with our planet’s natural resources relate to human health and behaviour,” said Leanne Martin, the lead author of the study. “Our results suggest that physically and psychologically reconnecting with nature can be beneficial for human health and wellbeing, and at the same time encourages individuals to act in ways which protect the health of the planet.”

The study comes at an important time in the climate crisis conversation, as people all over the world come to terms with what might happen if we fail to take action in the face of massive climate change.

Last year, people gathered in Iceland to hold a funeral for the country’s first dead glacier, after warming temperatures caused it to disappear. And the recent bushfires in Australia have served as a damning reminder of the real-life effects that a warming climate can have on people’s lives.

As the climate crisis continues to escalate, it’s important to remember that we can all do our bit to save the planet – and part of that may come down to spending time outside and appreciating all the wonderful natural spaces that we have access to.  

Whether it’s taking a walk through one of London’s green spots or catching the train to the beautiful natural spaces up and down the country, we have more excuses than ever to embark on a rural retreat.

So, what are you waiting for? This lunch break, why not go for a walk around your local park and spend five minutes taking in the nature around you – it could have a bigger impact on you than you think.

Images: Unsplash

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