Sit Spots and Nature Thoughts

After reading Shannon’s recent post about wanderlust, I was reminded of the concept of nature connectedness. Basically, it is the level that we include nature as a part of our personality. According to Shultz (2002), there are three components that make up the nature connectedness construct: a cognitive component, an affective component, and a behavioral component; our feeling of integration with nature affects our sense of care for nature, which in turn influences our commitment to protect the natural environment. Before I was consciously aware of these separate components to nature connectedness, I had already been exposed to the concept as a whole.

During my undergraduate education, I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Australia with a program focused on field and cultural work. While we learned plenty about how indigenous culture and research overlap in the communities we visited, the trip had an underlying goal of reminding us of our innate connection with our surroundings. Frequently, my trip leaders would have us go out on our own into the area, find a “sit spot”, and sit quietly for anywhere from half an hour to an hour. While at our sit spots, we were to use all the senses – touch, sight, smell, sound, taste – to take in and connect with our surroundings. I relished these times spent away from all the distractions that usually disconnected me from nature; the “sit spots” helped me stop, listen, and appreciate the wonderful resources nature provides that are often taken for granted. Through the rest of the trip, my feeling of integration in nature only grew, thereby fueling my desire to care and protect the natural environment.

Looking out from the Upper Gorge in Boodjamulla National Park, Australia


Though I brought that fiery environmental consciousness grounded in nature connectedness to graduate school, it has proved challenging to maintain. As a full-time graduate student, I spend most, if not all, waking hours inside the cement walls of labs and classrooms. I still have the strong desire to protect the environment, but at times it feels harder to picture when instead of trees, ocean waves, and gentle breezes, I am surrounded by technology, walls, and overly efficient air conditioning.

This is a trend evident in today’s culture; we are segregated from nature by high rises, shopping malls, and movie theatres. Though our ancestors spent most if not all of their time in nature, researchers estimate that we now spend up to ninety percent of our lifetime indoors [2]. As a consequence of this obvious disconnect, we may feel less responsible to protect the environment. Even something as simple as going to the gym and running on a treadmill or taking a spin class detach us from the environment in which such activities would normally take place! By doing something as simple as going for a walk outside every day we could rekindle our connection with, care for, and desire to protect the environment.

Not only does nature connectedness end up benefitting the environment through our protection, it benefits us by increasing our well-being. According to the theory of biophilia – the innate need of humans to affiliate with other life like plants and animals – spending time outdoors in nature positively affects our well-being [3]. We are all imprinted with this desire to connect with all life forms, we only need to act on it and spend time in nature. The connection between humans and nature is a two-way conversation; nature is communicating with us, we only need to sit, listen, and learn.







  1. Schultz, P. W. (2002). “Inclusion with nature: The psychology of human-nature relations”. In P. W. Schmuck & W. P. Schultz (Eds.), Psychology of sustainable development. (pp. 62-78). Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic.
  2. Evans, G. W., & McCoy, J. M. (1998). “When buildings don’t work: The role of architecture in human health”. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 18, 85-94.
  3. Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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