Can mindfulness enhance connectedness with nature? The case of in-depth nature experiences with adolescents

Date

2018-05-03

Authors

McCloskey, Jake A.

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Abstract

This thesis is an exploratory look into the use of mindfulness practice on in-depth nature experiences to determine if the practice has benefit to the participant, their outdoor experience, and overall connectedness with nature. An original research project examined three groups of adolescents from St. Michaels University School Outdoor Education program in Victoria, BC, Canada, as they hiked the Juan de Fuca trail. Two of the three groups undertook a simple mindfulness protocol to explore the outcomes. Based on participant-observation and interviews, mindfulness practice was determined to be a useful practice towards alleviating stress and anxiety associated with aspects of in-depth outdoor experiences, such as morning preparations. Participants who practiced mindfulness on the trip asked fewer questions about the future and remained present more often than those who did not practice mindfulness. A further finding was that there are aspects of mindfulness inherent in in-depth nature experiences, such as sitting around a fire. These inherent mindfulness moments should be encouraged as they provide benefit to trip experiences, and potentially towards greater connectedness with nature. Overall, this qualitative study suggests that mindfulness is a useful tool for the benefit of human well-being and nature connection. However, more research is needed to further identify the magnitude and mechanisms of the benefit.

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Keywords

mindfulness, meditation, sit spot, mindfulness practice, nature, nature experience, nature connection, connectedness with nature, human/nature connection, nature association, association with nature, CWN, nature affiliation, biophilia, nature deficit disorder, attention restoration theory, biophilia hypothesis, psycho-evolutionary theory, psycho-evolutionary stress reduction theory, adolescent, outdoor education, nature education, wilderness therapy, adventure therapy, qualitative, nature experience, in-depth nature experience, stress-reduction, anxiety reduction, campfire, hiking, backcountry, outdoor, outdoors, nature, Mindfulness-based stress reduction, MBSR

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