There is plenty of research demonstrating a positive correlation between people’s exposure to the natural world and how happy they are, but most of the studies have focused on adults.
To fill this research gap, social scientists in Mexico have recently conducted a study to see if kids reap the same feel-good benefits from being in the great outdoors.
The study recruited 286 children between the ages of 9 and 12 from a northwestern Mexican city. To measure how connected they were to nature, the kids were asked how much they enjoyed activities like observing wildlife, hearing sounds of nature, and touching animals and plants.
Additionally, to assess children’s connectedness to nature the kids were asked to answer whether they agree or disagree with statements such as “picking up trash from the ground can help the environment,” “taking care of animals is important,” and “human beings are part of the natural world.”
The researchers found that the kids who saw themselves connected to nature were more likely to act sustainably. Also, the more concerned they were about the environment and nature, the more likely they were to say they were happy.
While the researchers are aware of the study’s limitation that testing kids from the same city might not be representative of other groups, they said that the findings “provide insight into the power of positive psychology of sustainability in children.”
The results are also socially and scientifically relevant as younger generations will be the future custodians of the planet and, given the growing threats of climate change, it is now even more important to study how we can promote sustainable behaviors and develop environmental care in children.