Studies in Ecopsychology have shown that, for instance, people who are in offices with windows are less stressed and patients who have a window view heal more quickly than those who do not. Ecopsychology looks at the way our thoughts, feelings and behaviour interface with our environment. Ecopsychology recognizes that humans have a deep and interconnected relationship with nature – one that is healing for both people and the planet. It also recognizes that people have become increasingly disconnected from nature.
Researcher Elizabeth Nisbet and her colleagues at Carleton University have conducted a series of studies examining a phenomenon called “affective forecasting”. In one study, Ms. Nisbet had two groups of subjects in different conditions and asked them to predict how positive or negative they thought they would feel in these conditions. One group was asked to go on a brief nature walk, while the other was asked to walk through the windowless underground tunnels of the University. When surveyed after the experience, the subjects had not accurately predicted how they would feel. The people who walked outside on their nature walk underestimated their positive feelings and those who walked in the University tunnels underestimated their negative feelings. The researchers discussed how people in general may be underestimating the positive feelings that are elicited by being in nature. Even after the research, they noted how many people, even on a pleasant sunny day, would choose to walk in the university’s underground tunnels! This faulty “affective forecasting” has wider implications than simply feeling better than you think when in contact with nature. Other studies have shown that people who are more connected to nature are more likely to engage in environmentally friendly ways. Given the stress we are placing on our life support systems, trying to produce more accurate “affective forecasting” can have significant long term implications for the planet.
You can find out more about Ms. Nisbet’s research here.