Interaction with nature, or nature contact, is beneficial to human wellbeing, but the quality and quantity of this interaction are not well understood. Both features are critical to informing environmental and health policy-making and have been the subject of multiple research studies. The most common types of nature experiences found in the literature consist of walking and contemplating outdoor nature in the presence of greenery and blue elements1. When it comes to the correct “dose” or duration of nature exposure needed for humans to reap wellbeings benefits, recent studies suggest 20 minutes2. Yet, devising adequate policies around spending time in nature when outdoor nature is unavailable to many poses significant challenges. This observation begs the question if more straightforward ways of interacting with nature indoors offer equivalent benefits? Inspired by my own personal story, I believe so.
My morning routine consists of an early meditation session followed by a cup of coffee by my favorite green corner in the house, a four-square feet area hosting a fig leaf plant, a peace-lily, a dracaena, an umbrella plant, a deep green eucharistic plant, an asparagus fern, and two overgrown pathos plants hanging from the ceiling. My gaze will land on my plants multiple times as I go through my day, on my way to the kitchen to fill up my water bottle, get a quick lunch, make my afternoon tea or welcome my kids from school. In these moments, I gently examine my plants with my fingertips to see if they are thriving or if they need to be watered, repositioned, or clipped. Are they happy? In these moments, I slow down my pace, I breathe a bit deeper, and I marvel at the magic of nature, the only non-man-made element in my indoor environment besides my family. When I tend to my plant’s needs, I am reminded of my human role in the great ecosystem, a part that involves nurturing and caring for the resources that sustain my mere existence. As the temperatures drop in Fall and Winter, these moments appease my longing for time outdoors and fill my day with warm contentment. These brief moments can’t substitute for my long walks in nature, but they offer a continuous stream of energy boosts, a 4-season nature fix, to my wellbeing. Lately, science is beginning to substantiate my experience.
In a recent study3, the authors found that contrary to what most previous research suggests, simple everyday interactions with nature followed by nature connectedness have a dominant effect on wellbeing compared to spending time in nature. They evaluate the predictive importance of five nature-related factors on wellbeing when considered simultaneously: nature connectedness, time in nature, engagement with nature through simple everyday activities, indirect engagement with nature, and knowledge and study of nature. Examples of everyday activities in nature mentioned in the survey include smelling wildflowers, listening to a bird song, and sitting or relaxing in the garden. It is worth noticing that all these experiences are passive; they merely involve elemental sensory attention. Would simple moments that engage our innate nurturing qualities, such as plant caring, have a comparable effect on wellbeing? At Humegy, we think so. In our experience, these moments of deep connection are much more significant than the continuum of disconnected winks we experience throughout the day. Better, they are accessible to everyone; they improve us at low cost and risk.
1 Frumkin H, Bratman GN, Breslow SJ, Cochran B, Kahn PH Jr, Lawler JJ, Levin PS, Tandon PS, Varanasi U, Wolf KL, and Wood SA. Nature Contact and Human Health: A Research Agenda. Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Jul 31;125(7):075001. https://doi: 10.1289/EHP1663. PMID: 28796634; PMCID: PMC5744722
2 Hunter MC, Gillespie BW, and Chen S. Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Front Psychol (2019). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722
3 Richardson M, Passmore HA, Lumber R, Thomas R, and Hunt A. (2021). Moments not Minutes: The nature-wellbeing relationships. International Journal of Wellbeing 11(1), 8-33. https://doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v11i1.126