Understanding the Affective Benefits of Interacting with Nature

Abstract: Nature exposure, broadly defined, has been repeatedly shown to engender a more positive affective state. In this chapter, a detailed overview of the type of research that has been conducted in this field is provided, focusing on how the effects of nature differ by modality (i.e. nature walks, virtual reality, videos, and images) and by measurement (i.e. self-reports vs. physiological indices). This chapter outlines the existing theories of nature's affective benefits and discusses both the commonalities and divergences regarding the underlying mechanisms proposed by each theory. Based on recent research, it is proposed that one mechanism of particular importance is that of aesthetic preferences for natural environments. Lastly, this chapter describes work showing the efficacy of nature-based treatments for mood disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, and provides suggestions for how practitioners, private institutions, and governments can utilize nature interventions to improve individuals’ emotional wellbeing.

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Schertz, K. E., Meidenbauer, K. L., & Berman, M. G. (2021). Understanding the affective benefits of interacting with nature. In Brymer, E., Rogerson, M., & Barton, J. (Eds.), Nature and health: Physical activity in nature (pp. 7-22). Routledge.