Nature-focused mindfulness activities can promote children’s nature connection and affective wellbeing

Barrable, A. ., Booth, D. ., Adams, D. ., & Beachamp, G. . (2021). Enhancing nature connection and positive affect in children through mindful engagement with natural environments. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18.

The research supporting a positive link between nature connection and many physical and psychological benefits for children is impressive. While the related research shows that a variety of activities can be effective in increasing nature connection in children, the potential of mindful engagement with nature as an intervention has not been investigated through quantitative studies. This study does so. It also investigated the association between nature connection and affective wellbeing in children.

Four classes of children (age 9-10) from four separate Welsh primary schools participated in three different mindfulness activities during a half-day field trip to a nature reserve. These activities involved mindful listening to nature sounds, mindful looking at nature near and far, and pretending to be animals. The children completed a questionnaire before and after their visit to the nature reserve. The questionnaire included two nature connection measures (the Nature Connection Index and the Inclusion of Nature in Self) and a measure of affect (the Positive Affect, Negative Affect Scale for Children).

Results based on 74 completed questionnaires showed a significant positive effect of the mindfulness activities on children’s nature connection. Results also showed a significant increase in positive affect, and a small decrease in negative affect. Items on the affect scale reflecting positive affect included feeling “lively” and “joyful”, while items reflecting negative affect included “sad” and “scared”. The post-activity nature connection score of three of the schools showed a significant increase, while the same increase was not found in the fourth school. The experience of the children in the fourth school differed from the children in the other schools in that the mindfulness activities were of a shorter duration due to weather conditions.

This study indicates that children’s nature connection can be nurtured through mindfulness activities in nature-rich environments. These results “should encourage educators to make use of local natural spaces . . . on a regular basis” and to engage the children in mindfulness activities. Doing so could promote “the development of a healthy and positive relationship with the natural world, and support children’s affective and holistic wellbeing.”

Research Partner

Research Category