Environmental and Evolutionary Psychology Transcript

A transcript for national park visitors, explaining the psychological benefits of spending time in nature and with animals.



Throughout our lives, we- humans have always had an intimate relationship with nature and its components; we most obviously depend on it for subsistence and production.  In the traditional societies we realize that nature self interacted with humans and there was evidently great appreciation for nature and animals. Understanding the benefits of interacting with nature is of great importance for maintaining and improving our well-being in the current urbanizing world. The interaction and concern to nature and its components proved beneficial thereby eliminating most human-nature stress. However, a the modern society emerged, leading to the condensation of the human population condensed into urban areas, activities like industrialization many people have been hindered from the  reliance on direct consumptive interactions  with  nature.

Interacting with nature as well as the animals has always proven significant not only for survival, but also for human quality of life.  There is mounting empirical evidence in support of the human-nature interactions. To interact with nature involves spending some time in nature and with the animals. This can be done in the modern society by visiting the national parks which are evidently many all over. The national parks provide people with opportunities for interacting with nature, they permit us to spend some time in nature with the animals  and from this act we are subjected to a range of measurable all rounded  benefits  including positive effects on physical  health , psychological well-being ,cognitive ability  and  social cohesion among others.   There are indeed endless benefits that we can get from spending time in nature with the animals.

This paper focuses on psychological benefits. The psychological benefits that accrue to us as we spend time in nature with the animals can broadly be categorized into psychological well-being benefits and the cognitive- performance benefits.  Interaction with nature can increase self-esteem, as depicted in the expectancy theories where we gain motivation on the value and our knowledge on the outcome of nature and the surrounding beneficial animals.

We have the internal locus of control of our activities of interest. For instance, with the appreciation of nature, we develop the genuine desire of spending time in nature with the animals that originate from our expectations associated with the value we place on the animals. Spending time in nature is an activity of its own, for the sake of this activity; we therefore develop an intrinsic motivation that is coupled with the self-determination applicable in our day-to-day lives. We achieve the environmental competence as well as the relatedness. Many of us with the love for nature get engaged in spending some time in nature with the animals because they are interested and enjoy the activity; intrinsic motivation (Kaplan R & S, 1989).

The motivation will check on the mood. Psychological benefits such as anger reduction will be automatic to an intrinsic motivated individual alongside other general improved psychological well-being with positive effects on emotions and behavior.  These interactions between us and the nature and its components can also have positive effects on our cognitive function especially the ones relating to academic performance and our ability to perform mentally challenging tasks.

There are other psycho-physical health benefits such as stress reduction. Nature is a very soothing environment. We seek refuge of consolation in time of stress, spending time in nature is therefore stress relieving and a consistent practice of appreciation for nature and animals also assist us with ways self-stress reduction. With reduced stress, other factors such as the mortality rates are reduced. Many people have reportedly died of stress.  Nature has its ways of improving our beliefs.  The psychologists state that our beliefs are the determinant of our self worth. A clear understanding of our self worth goes a long way at promoting the understanding and appreciation of our self-concepts. We achieve social competence and therefore able to facilitate social interaction. This can play an important role in reducing crime and violence (Delta Society, 1991).

Psycho-evolutionary theorists suggest there are evident benefits that arise from spending time in nature, natural environments are simple environment which do not require large amounts of information to be processed- simply observation. Individual’s stress level is reduced by spending time in the natural setting. In the context of the stress reduction theory, stress has been defined as a set of physiological responses to any situation that threatens our well-being.

According to this theory, our bodies’ body responds to threats through negative emotions, increased autonomic arousal and psychological indicators which include fear, anger, sadness, as well as increased blood pressure and heart rate (Schunk, 2000).  This theory contends that in early human existence, the restorative effects of natural settings like the national parks with animals and other natural places with water assisted in relieving stress and in restoring expended energy levels and thereby created an evolutionary advantage to humans

There many rewards of sending time in nature with animals. These rewards can either be intrinsic or extrinsic.  Intrinsic rewards include the rewards that come from within us. Through visiting of the parks and spending time in nature with the animals, behavioral challenges like anxiety, depressions, low self esteem , realizing self worth and self appreciation can be overcome and checked. Interacting with animal has always proved to be effective in reduction of anxiety and depression. Research carried out by KING (2007) showed and identified that animals can indirectly and effectively make individuals feel better by making strange settings or unfamiliar people seem less threatening. For instance, we all know of all the animals are allegedly feared. So feared that people only think of how dangerous they are.  In the parks people meet these animals and observe their beauty, their perception of the animals do change, they view the animals with great positivity in their perceptions. Domestically, the interactions with a dog the dog helps in creating a sense of calmness, safety and protection in us. Spending time with animals in nature satisfies us.

As humans, in our daily lives, we are governed by two basic psychological needs; to love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to self and to others; self appreciation, self worth and self-esteem.  The importance of love, care and safety creates a non-threatening affection which is the key to our lives.

One way of demonstrating affection is through touch.  Nature and animals play an important role in allowing humans to fulfill their fundamental need for touch in very many uncomplicated ways. Animals have they own unique natural abilities natural to engage humans.  They represent the beauty of nature in spectacular ways and therefore provide provides stimulation and a feeling of connection for us. The animals deprive some significant degree of loneliness. This gentle contact with nature and animal draws focus outside ourselves to interact with the world around us.  We therefore focus our attention on the positive of the animal, instead of ruminating on our own worries or troubles.

The extrinsic benefits are also evident when we spend time in nature and with animals. These are also the extrinsic motivators; they are the physical rewards that we get as a result our time that we spend in nature with the animals. These rewards form the basis of our choices towards nature appreciation. As a result of desire for the nature, we conserve nature and domesticate animals. Preserving biodiversity therefore become our major goals.  We have known of the people who spend time in nature to collect different organism species.

Artifacts or exhibitions are also part of the extrinsic rewards to the people who spend time in nature. The parks provide individual with opportunities to spend time with nature and animals. The parks reduce disease, social unrest and crimes. They also provide green lungs for the urban areas and areas for recreation. A park is true representation of undisturbed nature. It has enormous untapped health potential as it provides an opportunity for people to re-establish and maintain their health in a holistic manner.

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