Nature's nurture: Connecting with nature impacts on our wellbeing

Man looking over bush setting
Tonia Gray

Associate Professor Tonia Gray works in the Centre for Educational Research as a Secondary Specialist in Pedagogy and Learning. Her research interests include eco-pedagogy, human-nature relationships, and reflection and experiential learning in a range of educational settings. Here, Tonia provides us with an insight into the importance of having a connection with nature.

According to acclaimed Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, we are biologically drawn to nature. Globally, nature is recognised as therapeutic or cathartic and journalist and author Richard Louv posits that when in contact with the natural world we are "self-medicating with an inexpensive and unusually convenient drug substitute. Let's call it vitamin N – for nature".

In industrialised societies, we spend on average 90% of our time indoors in built environments, often in cities. These artificial settings seldom offer contact with nature or are designed on natural principles. It's not uncommon for city dwellers to go from their office building to cocooned in their vehicle driving home, pushing the remote button to enter their garage, entering the house from an internal entry door from the garage and remaining "indoors" in their air-conditioned built structures while glued to screens – whether they be TVs, computers, mobile phones or tablets. Then the cycle repeats itself in a reverse direction in the morning.

This begs the question: where is their connection to nature? And, more importantly: what impact does this alienation have on our wellbeing and health?

Although the questions posed here are rhetorical, myself and a team of researchers within the Centre for Educational Research (CER) are examining the layered meanings behind these variables, whether in children's educational settings or workplace environments.

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