The 32 Benefits of Interacting with Nature

Throughout history, humans have had an intimate relationship with nature, most obviously depending on it for subsistence and production. As modern society emerged, and the human population condensed into urban areas, industrialisation freed many people from reliance on direct consumptive interactions with nature.

Indeed, in post-war society, people-nature interactions have fundamentally shifted from direct consumption and exploitation to more mutual relationships in which people actively seek out interactions with nature for recreation and enjoyment. Interacting with nature may therefore be important not only for survival, but also for human quality of life.

Typology of settings in which interactions between people and nature occur

SettingDescriptionExamples
IndoorInside a buildingFoliage plants
UrbanLandscape dominated by built formPublic green space
Private green space e.g., garden
Roadside trees or isolated urban vegetation
FringeThe area immediately surrounding a town or cityPeri-urban nature reserve
Production LandscapeAgricultural lands (pastoral or cropping)Paddocks/fields/countryside
WildernessArea where human influence is lowBeach
Ocean
River
Mountains / Hills
Forest/woodland
National Parks
Specific speciesCases where object of the interaction is defined with no particular settingMarine animals
Avian
Domesticated Pets

Understanding the benefits of interacting with nature is important for maintaining and improving human well-being in a rapidly urbanising world. For example, evidence that living in close proximity to green spaces delivers health benefits could be used to design landscapes with broader societal benefits such as reductions in health spending.

Following is a list of all possible psychological, cognitive, physiological, social and spiritual benefits-

Psychological well-being: Positive effect on mental processes

#1. Increased self-esteem

#2. Improved mood

#3. Reduced anger/frustration

#4. Psychological well-being

#5. Reduced anxiety

#6. Improved behaviour

Cognitive: Positive effect on cognitive ability or function –

#7. Attentional restoration

#8. Reduced mental fatigue

#9. Improved academic performance

#10. Education/learning opportunities

#11. Improved ability to perform tasks

#12. Improved cognitive function in children

#13. Improved Productivity

Physiological: Positive effect on physical function and/or physical health –

#14. Stress reduction

#15. Reduced blood pressure

#16. Reduced cortisol levels

#17. Reduced headaches

#18. Reduced mortality rates from circulatory disease

#19. Faster healing

#20. Addiction recovery

#21. Perceived health/well-being

#22. Reduced cardiovascular, respiratory disease and long-term illness

#23. Reduced occurrence of illness

Social: Positive social effect at an individual, community or national scale-

#24. Facilitated social interaction

#25. Enables social empowerment

#26. Reduced crime rates

#27. Enables interracial interaction

#28. Reduced violence

#29. Social cohesion

#30. Social support

Spiritual: Positive effect on individual religious pursuits or spiritual well being –

#31. Increased inspiration

#32. Increased spiritual well-being

Indeed, there is mounting empirical evidence that interacting with nature delivers a range of measurable human benefits, including positive effects on physical health, psychological well-being, cognitive ability and social cohesion.


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