We live in a world whereby now, more than ever, the majority of us live in urban settings. We live in a world whereby we are constantly connected to technology, connected to always ‘on’, connected to the road runner culture. Connected to the pace, to the sprint, to the expectations that we set ourselves of having to to remain connected.

We have moved away from how our ancestors experienced the world, oftentimes living in a more natural environment, more connected to the natural world around us, exercising the fight or flight responses in how our bodies originally designed it for us.

The majority of us are constantly clock watching and racing from the moment our alarms on our smartphones ring in the mornings. We race to get the children out, to make it for the gym class, for the early morning corporate meeting, we race to make the next meeting, we grab food on the run and we continue this pace as we make our way home in the evenings. We race to collect the children, to make the yoga class, to get the dinner cooked and then we do it all over again the next day, and the next and so on. We rarely, if ever, take a side step out of our urban surroundings and back into our natural environment. Is it that we are too busy? Are we being busy or are we being productive?

Personality & the human

So what about us as individuals, as human beings? Does our personality type ever come into play when it comes to connecting with the outdoors? Psychometric assessments, personality assessments and understanding self and others is quite common now in the corporate world. It allows us to understand the diversity of an individual or a team and how we can leverage off of this to keep our organisations moving forward. However, are certain types of individuals more drawn to natural connections than others? For some, the idea of being outside is simply unappealing.

  • Is it fair to say that the majority of us who don’t take a side step into the natural environment have a specific type of personality?
  • Is there a specific personality type that is more drawn to nature and the outdoors?
  • Is it a case that only certain people gain benefits from being outdoors?

The science

Research and studies have shown that connecting to nature can have a positive impact on everyone, regardless of the personality type.

Biophilia hypothesis is a term coined by Edward O. Wilson in his 1984 book, Biophilia. The biophilia hypothesis suggests that all humans have an innate tendency to look for connections with nature and other forms of life. Consider our ancestry and how they experienced the world. We, as humans, have spent almost all of our evolutionary history in the natural environment and only in recent times have we moved into a more urban living setting. Our attraction, identification, and our need to connect to nature is thought to remain in our modern psychology.

Nature connectedness refers to an individual’s sense of their relationship with the natural world and its surroundings. This is a subjective relationship, and therefore each individual will experience nature connectedness in different ways.

Science and research has shown that nature connectedness can be linked to eudaimonia wellbeing. Eudaimonia wellbeing refers to the subjective experiences associated with living a life of virtue in pursuit of human excellence. The phenomenological experiences derived from such living include self-actualization, personal expressiveness, and vitality. Eudaimonia wellbeing is in turn linked to a more long-term sense of wellbeing.

While nature connectedness is subjective, and we all can experience different relationships with nature, research indicates that regardless of who we are in terms of our personality types, we can all gain from connecting with our natural surroundings. In addition, consistent personality, attitudinal, behavioral, and wellbeing differences are found between those who strongly identify with and feel connected to the natural world compared to those who do not. Individuals higher in nature connectedness tend to be more conscientious, agreeable, and open.

The how

Nature is not an extra frill. It is not an add on. It’s a free resource that can be seriously considered for our mental wellbeing. Oftentimes when we consider connecting with nature we can think that we ‘don’t have time’, or that we’re ‘not fit enough’, or we find some excuse why we can’t find some time for ourselves with nature. Nature is one of the basics. Let’s make time for the basics.

It does not have to be a hike that takes hours, it does not have to be physically challenging, connecting to nature can be as simple and easy as one of the following:

  • Take a route to work that has a tree-lined street
  • Grab a coffee/tea and sit on a park bench
  • Find your nearest green space and arrange a walking meeting with a colleague
  • Take stock of the ecosystems around you – simply opening a window and listening for bird song can have an impact
  • Get into dirt, don’t be afraid of the ground – studies show that by getting into the dirt has an increase in serotonin levels (the happy hormone!)
  • Raining? Notice petrichor – the smell of the earth after the rain. Smelling petrichor is connected to activating a calmness in the brain

Connecting to nature does not have to be a chore. You do not need to be an ‘outdoorsy’ person to experience an impact. It can be enjoyable and it can have a positive effect on us all. By taking small changes in how you connect to our natural environment, you will in turn be promoting a healthier self and in turn have a measurable impact on yourself and others. It’s something I use a lot with my 1-1 coaching clients and in turn they are unlocking their potential within themselves.

Why not give it a go?

Anne Marie
The Inside Out Coach