Motivation and emotion/Book/2011/Nature and psychological well-being/Transcript
Nature and Psychological Well-being Chapter Overview
Below is the transcript of a |5 minute audiovisual overview of the Nature and Psychological Well-Being textbook chapter by Emily Stein. The book chapter was created as an assessment piece for Motivation and Emotion, a psychology unit at University of Canberra.
I would like to acknowledge my very good friends James and Chris for their help with filming, editing and interviewing. Thank you very much.
Interviewer: Joining us today is the author of the new book called “nature and psychological well-being”. Emily is here to explain and summarise the key points and take-away messages. Emily, tells us about your book.
Emily: The book was written as a self-help guide to solving psychological distress by finding the solutions in nature. In the book I summarise the biophilia hypothesis and explain environmental aesthetics. I explore the power of restorative environments and the attention restoration theory. I have also written about nature deficit disorder, seasonal affective disorder and green exercise.
Interviewer: You mentioned the biophilia hypothesis. What is that exactly?
Emily: The biophilia hypothesis states that all humans have a natural desire to be affiliated with nature. This stems from the 2 million years that humans survived on the savannah. We have evolved to unconsciously prefer certain landscapes to others based on their suitability for life. We still have this ability today in the 21st century.
Interviewer: Considering we no longer live in the savannah, how can this ability help us today?
Emily: Even though we no longer need to judge landscapes as being suitable for life, we still have a preference for natural over man-made environments. The evidence for this preference comes from many preference studies that explore the way we judge, describe and feel about natural stimuli. One study has suggested that using natural stimulus in the work setting can improve the health and well-being of the staff. We call this a restorative experience.
Interviewer: Why is a restorative environment important?
Emily: One reason why a restorative environment is important is because of mental fatigue. When focus on a project we drain our stores of directed attention. Directed attention requires a lot of effort and can make us irritable and mentally fatigued. We can restore our directed attention by using involuntary attention. This is the type we use for interesting and fascinating stimuli. This is the Attention Restoration Theory proposed by Kaplan and Kaplan in 1989.
Interviewer: What defines a restorative environment?
Emily: A restorative environment has four components. Firstly, it is a place that is away from the normal distractions of life and distinctively different. Secondly, it has a feeling of being in a different world that can be explored. The third component is fascination. Soft fascinations use our involuntary attention and help restore our directed attention. The fourth component is compatibility.
Interviewer: In your book you have written about the works of Richard Louv. He has coined the term “nature deficit disorder”. Can you tell me more about that?
Emily: Care must be given when talking about Nature deficit disorder as a definite disorder because it is not in the DSM. It is included in my book because he argues that many childhood disorders are partly caused due to the lack of direct contact with nature. His theory is similar to that of the Kaplan’s in that he recommends that children should spend more time in restorative environments. He believes that this will reduce obesity, attention deficit disorders and depression in children.
Interviewer: What is seasonal affective disorder and why have you included it in a nature and well-being book?
Emily: Seasonal affective disorder is major depression with a seasonal pattern. The seasons are part of nature and this is why it is included. The use of light therapy to re-balance melatonin levels is successfully used to treat seasonal affective disorder. Bright light therapy and dawn simulation are both natural treatments. They both effectively treat an illness which is regulated by nature itself.
Interviewer: Another key point in your book is green exercise. Why should I use green exercise when I could use my treadmill?
Emily: You can use your treadmill if you want. But next time I recommend displaying pleasant natural scenes onto the wall in front of you. That way you can watch them as you run. This technique was used in an experiment by Pretty and colleagues in 2005. The results suggested that those who paired pleasant natural scenes with exercise had higher mood and self-esteem ratings than the other groups. Exercise and nature both improve well-being, so the combining the two is a great way to increase psychological well-being even further.
Interviewer: What are the key take away messages of your book?
Emily: I want my readers to understand that nature can be used to improve psychological well-being. I would like them to realise that being in nature is not an unpleasant experience, but rather one that takes us back to our ancestral roots. Ultimately, the key message is simple. Please go outdoors and use nature to improve your life.
Interviewer: Thank you for being here today
Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Chapel Hill: Algonoquin Books.
Kaplan, R. & Kaplan, S. (1989). The Experience of Nature: A psychological perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pretty, J., Peacock, J., Sellens, M., & Griffin, M. (2005). The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 15 (5). 319-337.