5 Nov 2009

Nature Makes Us Nicer

I just picked up an article about new research from the University of Rochester suggests that nature-connection makes us less selfish and helps us care more for each other - plus another about how cities hurt you and what to do about it.

Photos: Randwick woods two weeks ago

First the Rochester research - here is what ecotherapist Linda Buzzell says:

Journalist Tom Jacobs, on the Miller McCune website, reports that a new series of studies by a research team led by psychologist Netta Weinstein suggests that immersion in nature "brings individuals closer to others, whereas human-made environments orient goals toward more selfish or self-interested ends."

Jacobs believes "This appears to be the first research to examine the impact of the natural world on people's values and aspirations, and its findings have intriguing implications for architects, designers and urban planners."

I believe this research may have much wider implications!

The researchers tell us that "these findings suggest that full contact with nature can have humanizing effects... Our results suggest that, to the extent our links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with each other."

This makes sense to me. In modern life humans are like caged animals in the zoo, stressed and unhappy in our nature-disconnected cubicles, tethered to our screens. Our temperaments suffer for it. We become selfish and quarrelsome.

Multiple studies now reveal that once we're reconnected with nature and the natural, slower-paced ways of living that we were evolved to enjoy .... Ahhhhh! This reconnection feels like coming home and can deliver a delicious pleasure that mellows us out. We relax enough to look around, enjoy our surroundings and have kinder, gentler feelings for our fellow humans and the rest of nature. The implications of this research are profound: modern humans need to consciously re-connect with the rest of nature both for our own health and the health and peace of our communities and our planet.

Read more here and more about the research here.

How The City Hurts Your Brain

The second piece of research that I wanted to touch on has been highlighted by Jonah Lehrer, author of "How The City Hurts Your Brain...and What You Can Do About It" - he calls cities "deeply unnatural and overwhelming places." This research is particularly timely as for the first time in history, the majority of people now live in cities.

Read more here.

Here is some of what Lehrer reports: "For a species that evolved to live in small, primate tribes on the African savannah, such a migration marks a dramatic shift. Instead of inhabiting wide-open spaces, we're crowded into concrete jungles, surrounded by taxis, traffic, and millions of strangers. In recent years, it's become clear that such unnatural surroundings have important implications for our mental and physical health, and can powerfully alter how we think. This research is also leading some scientists to dabble in urban design, as they look for ways to make the metropolis less damaging to the brain. The good news is that even slight alterations, such as planting more trees in the inner city or creating urban parks with a greater variety of plants, can significantly reduce the negative side effects of city life. The mind needs nature, and even a little bit can be a big help."

None of this is new to readers of this blog but all adds to the evidence that our green spaces are vastly more important than many give them credit. Read more here.


Gina said...

Hmmm... not sure about the city hurting my brain. It sure got a lot more stimulation than here in the boondocks, and I confess that's the part I miss the most about it.

Merci said...

I wonder how much is spent annually on research that tells us what we already knew!