Nature connectedness is the extent to which individuals include nature as part of their identity. It includes an understanding of nature and everything it is made up of, even the parts that are not pleasing. Characteristics of nature connectedness are similar to those of a personality trait: nature connectedness is stable over time and across various situations. Schultz describes three components that make up the nature connectedness construct:
- The cognitive component is the core of nature connectedness and refers to how integrated one feels with nature.
- The affective component is an individual’s sense of care for nature.
- The behavioral component is an individual’s commitment to protect the natural environment.
These three components make up nature connectedness and are required for a healthy relationship with nature. If an individual feels connected to nature (possibly by spending time in it), they may be more inclined to care about nature, and protect the environment.Recent research has found that nature exposure (and feeling connected to nature at a trait level) provides many benefits to humans such as well-being.
Other researchers describe the nature connectedness construct in a simpler manner. For instance, nature connectedness can be thought of as a love of nature (also referred to as emotional affinity toward nature). Similarly, nature connectedness can be defined as how much a person believes they are the same as nature (more specifically, a person’s connectivity with nature) or it can be thought of as simply feeling emotionally connected with nature. Nature connectedness (as a construct) is also known as nature relatedness, connectivity with nature, emotional affinity toward nature, or inclusion of nature in self.
Although nature relatedness is a stable individual trait, it can change based on one’s experience with nature, meaning the more time an individual spends in nature, the more connected they feel to nature and the more concern they may feel for nature. Feeling connected to nature at a state level has many benefits as well such as more positive moods and less negative moods.
Even though humans derive many benefits from nature, our modern lifestyles have created a disconnect from the natural environment wherein we spend significantly more time indoors. Some researchers estimate that humans spend up to 90% of their lives indoors. This disconnection from nature can have a negative impact on humans because we are missing out on the beneficial effects of nature. As a result, we are less connected to nature and feel less responsibility to protect this environment.