Children and nature connected for a happier life
A new study led by Laura Berrera-Hernández and her team has shown for the first time that when children and nature are brought together, only positive effects can be expected. The little ones become happier because they tend to perform sustainably and develop ecological thinking.
Children and nature in symbiosis
With the increasing threat to our planet from the warming climate, deforestation and animal extinction, research focused on human-nature relationships is becoming increasingly urgent to find solutions to today's environmental problems. The younger generations are the future administrators of the planet. For this reason, researchers are working to promote sustainable behavior and develop environmental protection in children.
The researchers describe a separation of children and nature as “nature deficit syndrome”. This could lead to the eventual destruction of the planet. Furthermore, the lack of attachment to the natural world is unlikely to lead to the desire to protect this environment.
Berrera-Hernández describes the connection to nature not only as an estimate of its beauty. Children should also be aware of the interrelationship and dependency between them and nature. You should also appreciate all the nuances of nature and feel part of it.
The study recruited 296 children between the ages of 9 and 12 from a Mexican city. All participants received a self-administered scale, which they filled out at school. In this way they could measure closeness to nature, sustainable behavior, frugality, altruism, justice and their happiness. This included measuring their agreement with statements about their attachment to nature.
The researchers found that the feeling of being connected to nature has positive associations with sustainability in children. Children reported a higher level of happiness perceived. This suggests that the little ones who perceive themselves to be more connected to nature tend to be more sustainable. Accordingly, this leads to a higher level of happiness. Previous studies in adults suggested a connection between being close to nature and developing environmentally friendly behaviors.
Despite the study’s limitations of only testing children from the same city, the results provide an insight into the power of positive psychology of sustainability in children. A deeper understanding of the relationships between these variables can provide practical insight into the additional psychological benefits of promoting sustainable behavior in children. If we want to develop environmental protection in younger generations, initiatives to encourage and enable young people to spend more time in nature are a must.
Berrera-Hernández explains the following about the study: “Parents and teachers should encourage children to be more in touch with nature, as our results indicate that exposure to nature is related and sustainable behavior and happiness . “
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