Just looking at nature makes us nicer


A new study from the University of Rochester found that paying attention to the natural world makes people feel
better and behave better.  Its 370 test subjects, viewing nature rather than man-made environments led people to “value community and close relationships and
to be more generous with money.” 

That says a lot for the value of green space in cities, and the lead researcher commented that “Incorporating parks and
other representations of nature into urban environments may help build
a stronger sense of community among residents.  To the extent that our
links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with
each other.” And the lack of green space
in cities may explain higher levels of indifference, and estrangement in urban dwellers than rural dwellers.

SO gardeners, it's not just us or even just plants. (But we knew that.)   

(As an off-topic aside, I've always wondered what it's like to be in beautiful natural places killing wild animals – but then I'm a nearly-veg suburban girl, so I'm never going to relate.)

Read the article and research study. 

Photo: Sunrise on Pawleys Island, South Carolina.


  1. The one hunter I have talked to on several occasions seems like a personable enough fellow. He and his sons hunt on the land next door to us. He has expressed often the need to be responsible about hunting which includes the disparagement of other hunters, so as a group I get mixed messages of hunters. There was even an article in the local paper recently about bad hunters not respecting property rights and lines.

    I have to wonder if this being in nature can not include driving through it. The study article talked about veiwing nature scenes on computer screens making people feel connected and nice. If the constant rain of Big Gulp cups, soda and beer cans, plastic beverage containers and sacks of fast food that have to be deliberatly tossed out of passing vehicles to end up on the sides of the scenic byway are an indication, driving through nature doesn’t do much for peoples appreciation of it.

  2. I would agree with Christopher and include ATV’s and even snow mobiles … to truly connect with nature we need to enter it as if a sanctuary … a home to other wildlife… in quiet with respect … in awe and reverence. Gosh you do not even have to have all that … a bit of peace and quiet watching a sunset can do wonders for a state of mind.

    There seems to be a kink in this theory however… there are some who own vast land and views but still see other land out of their sight, as something to exploit. I am sure they enjoy the peace and beauty of their world but could care less for the hell they are creating for others … I am thinking of Mountain Top Removal Mining http://www.mountainjusticesummer.org/facts/steps.php … just as one example, alas there are many more.

    So I cannot believe observing or experiencing nature makes just anyone a better person … not when they can destroy so much of nature and cause so many to suffer. Otherwise I totally agree with how nature enhances our lives and can bring us closer to our “authentic selves.”

  3. A Scottish study released last year discovered those living within eyesight of nature live longest.

    Not gardening. Simplying seeing nature from home windows lengthens life.

    This fact held true for all socio-economic groups.

    See nature, be happier & live longer.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  4. Thanks for the link to that interesting article. How fascinating that communing with nature can actually make people more generous. Maybe it’s the same phenomenon that leads to less vandalism being committed in beautiful surroundings.

  5. Mostly, I’m sure, less vandalism in beautiful surroundings because what we see as beauty, is actually a lot of work, investment, social and/or economic stability. Those things are likely to lead to less vandalism more than beauty.

    We all have culturally-informed edens dancing in our heads. We have ideal environments for healthy living, and most of us do not live that way. Yes, we understand this without small studies attempting to show (prove?) that we need those environments to live healthfully -after all that is where we come from: small groups of humans in natural environments (uh, like a small town where people may be nearer nature than us city folk- geez, I hear people are nicer in small towns, generous too).

    How many more studies do we need to show us that most of us like where we come from (woods, grasslands) and are unsure about where we may be going (supercities, spaceships?).

  6. It’s possible to look at the natural world and not see it. But the study studied people who were told to “attend to their environments by noticing colors and textures and imagining sounds and smells”. I think it’s about being where our feet are and I would wager that even if our feet are wandering a cityscape, simply being present would make us more engaged and engaging. But I’m also not surprised that images of the natural world won out for generating good feelings. A longing for Eden is bred in the bone.

  7. I agree Kris at B that it is more about getting your head out of your own a#s and being present. Changing your focus to outer rather than inner. Many people suffer from “green blindness” and need to be retrained how to view the world. It is all just visual “white noise” to them.

  8. Thomas Hoving who died a week or so ago, and is better known for being Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Are was Commisioner of NYC parks in 1965. One of his priorities was to build pocket parks, the first being paley Park on 3 East 53rd St in 1967. George Prochnik wrote about Hoving and the parks he built or inspired in the NYTimes on Dec. 13. The benefits of nature have been evident to some, and fortunately some influential people for some time.

  9. On your off-topic aside…I’m not a hunter in the technical sense. But whenever I take a bite of Kung Pao Chicken or have a slice of turkey at Thanksgiving I’m effectively being a hunter. I’m just at the “clean” end of the killing. In my mind, it’s impossible to eat meat, poultry, or fish and NOT defend hunting.

  10. i would guess on the vandalism thing that vandalism goes down when people are invested in their surroundings.
    and all i know is, nature makes ME feel calmer and i feel like a better person. not to mention that going out in it often involves exercise, which is better for my body as a whole.


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