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Nature Connectedness and Meaning in Life in Northumberland National Park

Results of nature connectedness and meaning in life research now available

You may recall that last May (2020), Michael Wilson from Derby University began a study within Northumberland National Park investigating how people feel connected to nature and how this connection might contribute to (or detract from) ideas about meaning in life. Well, we’ve been contacted by Michael today, as his results are now available.

Brief summary

Seventeen people who used Northumberland National Park for exercise participated in the study. Their written accounts of how they felt while walking in the Park were analysed to identify any recurring themes and to identify what, if any, meanings they attached to their experiences in nature.

One finding was that a whole range of feelings, emotions and moods came into play when the participants tried to make meaning out of their experience in nature: they didn’t just rely on positive emotions.

Also, the participants’ accounts showed that areas of rich biodiversity and greenness provide opportunities to help them make meaning in life. Consequently, the depletion of nature would be a loss of the benefits these green spaces provide.

Official Abstract

Wilson. M. (2020). Nature connectedness and meaning in life in the Northumberland National Park: An inductive reflexive thematic analysis. Derby University: unpublished MSc Project.

There is bourgeoning literature on the predicted and contributing benefits of nature connectedness on wellbeing, compared to time spent in nature, but to date no qualitative study has been conducted in this area. The present study used inductive Reflexive Thematic Analysis, and was informed by a phenomenological epistemology, and Embodied Writing was used to gather data of embodied-felt experiences of 17 participants (nine male, six female, two other; age 19-80, M = 51.7) engaged in a leisurely walk in the Northumberland National Park. Participants developed meaning through immersive experiences in nature which brought perspective to their lives. They also developed meaning by coming into the present moment which enabled a temporary letting-go of life difficulties. Participants also developed meaning through affective responses to nature and by viewing nature as symbolically reflecting aspects of themselves. Importantly, participants developed meaning through relationship with nature. The study concluded that meaning-making in nature was a dynamic process, and may even be bi-directional with nature. The importance of an affect spectrum in meaning-making rather than positive emotion alone was highlighted. Meaning-making may also be linked to coherence-making, or sense-making, and reflections on life significance or value, and the role of nature in this. Participant accounts showed that areas of rich biodiversity and greenness provided opportunities for meaning-making, and therefore that depletion of nature is also a loss of experience of the benefits these settings provide.

Full Copy

A full copy of the study is available on request from mike.wilsonuk@outlook.com

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