Connecting to Nature and Happiness | eePRO @ NAAEE

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Connecting to Nature and Happiness

I love seeing affirmations like this of the incredibly positive impacts of experiences in nature, but I do wonder if articles like this (and, more generally, perspectives like this) preach to the choir too much to be useful for giving access to people otherwise less inclined to get outdoors on their own. I especially wonder what this connection between nature and happiness means for educational outcomes. A lot of research shows that feeling at least moderately safe and comfortable contributes significantly to learning, and I wonder: does this promise of happiness apply to everyone? How do we get people past the point of discomfort, and into a realm where they can really have these kinds of positive outcomes? And how long might this kind of happiness take to develop, at least in any kind of conscious way that might incentivize people to return to (and thus keep learning from) nature?

I think this article does a wonderful job describing how the simple act of being outside and experiencing nature can do so many amazing things for our health, bodies and community. So often in today's day in age, we turn to complex medical treatments, strict diets, or intense exercise routines to improve our well-being. However, I think we drastically underestimate the power being outside can have. This benefit, I believe, spans across generations. Personally, I have worked with kids ages 5-14 outside in a garden. The kids I work with are enthralled by the outdoor experience, primarily because they have both a sense of freedom in the outdoors and can develop a sense of community. These children see benefits of both working in groups in the garden, but I have also noticed that even at a young age, many of the kids spend time alone in the garden, simply watching and listening to their surrounding. I believe that being in nature means being unconnected from the stress and worries of day to day lives, whether this is work, technology, social concerns. This is what makes being outside, and forming a community outside, both with nature itself and with others, so valuable, beautiful and beneficial.

I am so glad to see this thread! First, it is sometimes just darn exhausting doing this work, so, to be reminded that being outside can and should be rejuvenating is a nice personal touch. Second, it is also important to remember that our students experience a sense of awe and happiness being outside, and we should look for that to rejuvenate our work/cultivate that.

I also think your point, Fiona, about thinking about what helps people achieve happiness (and is it the same formula for all? No...) is so important. How can we know what will people feel happy in nature?

I really enjoyed reading this article. I teach all my students about how all nature is beautiful in its own way. When people understand this, I think they learn to appreciate it more. By appreciating nature, people can connect it to their everyday lives. When mentioning depression, I think enjoying nature is a powerful tool to overcome those negative feelings. Busy schedules and stressful personal lives can make us feel this way; it is hard to shut it off. The key to letting it all go for a moment, and learning to relax, is right in front of us. By unplugging and connecting with nature, the brain can take a break from overthinking and worry. The calming sights with a deep breath of fresh air, always helps me to feel happier. I try to always remind myself to enjoy the little things. I think if more people had this reminder in the back of their minds, everyone would be a lot happier. Exploring the outdoors, guides the habit of enjoying all the little factors of each environment. Even a simple hike one time can allow a person to enjoy that peaceful moment. By teaching our students now to enjoy the little things about nature, they will be happier. Hopefully, this will help guide them to be more passionate towards nature and see its importance.
Overall, I believe connecting with the natural world makes us happier.