Another really interesting study exploring the health benefit of connections between people and nature

Subject Title:
Participate in a research study looking into the role of nature in reducing anxiety.

Dear colleagues

Our names are Jessica Nguyen and Jedda Crabtree from the QUT School of Psychology and Counselling. We are currently undertaking research into the role of the natural world in reducing anxiety.

If you’d like to help us in this study, we are looking for participants over the age of 18 who are experiencing some level of anxiety. Participation involves:

• Undertaking a 15 minute online questionnaire at the beginning of the project.
• Listening to two 10 – 15 minute audio recordings, one per week over a period of two weeks. The audio recordings will be sent to you by email and each will consist of a guided imagery experience. You will be asked to fill out a short 2 minute online questionnaire before listening to the audio recording and the same short online questionnaire after listening to the audio recording (4 minutes total).

Further details on the study and how to participate can be found by clicking on the following link:
http://survey.qut.edu.au/f/181303/11b0/

We are also interested in interviewing participants about their experiences. If you would like to participate in an interview, please either leave your contact details in the relevant section of the survey above or contact one of the researchers below. Please note that not all participants who express interest in being interviewed about their experiences will be interviewed.

Should you wish to participate or have any questions, please contact one of the researchers via email.

Please note that this study has been approved by the QUT Human Research Ethics Committee (approval number 1400000683).

Many thanks for your consideration of this request.

Jessica Nguyen
Doctor of Psychology (Clinical) Candidate
jessica.nguyen@connect.qut.edu.au

Jedda Crabtree
Doctor of Psychology (Clinical) Candidate
jedda.crabtree@connect.qut.edu.au

Eric Brymer
Supervisor
eric.brymer@qut.edu.au
Faculty of Health
Queensland University of Technology

Feeling Connected to nature is good for your Health

Our latest study is published in the 2014 Journal of Health Psychology – Martyn and Brymer (2014). This study found a relationship between feeling connected to nature and low levels of anxiety. We used an online survey consisting of two well-validated questionnaires, a qualitative question and some demographic questions. The two standardised self-report scales were the Nature Relatedness Scale (NRS) and the State Trait Inventory for Cognitive and Somatic Anxiety (STICSA). The NRS measures an individual’s affective, cognitive, and physical relationship with the natural world. The scale consists of three subscales measuring personal connection to nature, external worldviews of nature, and physical familiarity with nature.
The State Trait Inventory for Cognitive and Somatic Anxiety (STICSA) measures overall anxiety as well as somatic and cognitive aspects of state and trait anxiety. The first part of the scale assesses how people feel at the time of taking the survey (state anxiety) even if it is not how people usually feel, and the second part of the scale predicts situations in which individuals will have elevated anxiety (trait anxiety). We also added a qualitative question “In your own words please tell us what being in nature means to you.”
The quantitative results indicated that connection to nature was significantly related to lower levels of overall, state cognitive and trait cognitive anxiety. Qualitative results revealed seven themes; relaxation, time out, enjoyment, connection, expanse, sensory engagement and a healthy perspective. Taken together these results suggest that opportunities which enhance experiences of being connected to nature may reduce unhelpful anxiety. In particular these results suggest that opportunities to develop physical familiarity with nature are most strongly related to low levels of general anxiety. In practice these results suggest that it is important to have experiences in nature that facilitate physical familiarity and feelings of being physically comfortable in nature. Get out and enjoy nature, in all its guises.

Participate in a research study looking into psychological and emotional experiences and emotional skills used in extreme, adventure and traditional sports

Subject Title: Participate in a research study looking into psychological and emotional experiences and emotional skills used in extreme, adventure and traditional sports

Dear athlete

My name is Eric Brymer and I am part of a team conducting cross-cultural research on well-being, emotions, and emotional skills in extreme, adventure, and traditional sports. If you’d like to help me in this study I’m looking for males and females over the age 18 to complete a 20 minute online questionnaire about your sporting experiences.

Further details on the study and how to participate can be found by clicking on the following link:

http://survey.qut.edu.au/f/177394/1402/

We are also interested in interviewing participants about their experiences if you would like to participate in an interview please either leave your contact details in the relevant section of the survey above or contact one of the researchers below.

Please note that this study has been approved by the Queensland University of Technology Human Research Ethics Committee (approval number 1300000176)

Many thanks for your consideration of this request.

Eric Brymer Susan Houge Mackenzie
Assistant Professor
Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
+805.756.1288
shougema@calpoly.edu

School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences
Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Faculty of Health, QUT
+61 7 07 3138 3511
eric.brymer@qut.edu.au

Participate in a research study looking into psychological and emotional experiences and emotional skills used in extreme, adventure and traditional sports

Dear Adventurer

 

My name Eric Brymer and I am part of a team conducting cross-cultural research on well-being, emotions, and emotional skills in extreme, adventure, and traditional sports. If you’d like to help me in this study I’m looking for males and females over the age 18 to complete a 20 minute online questionnaire about your sporting experiences.

 

Further details on the study and how to participate can be found by clicking on the following link:

      

http://survey.qut.edu.au/f/177394/1402/

 

We are also interested in interviewing participants about their experiences if you would like to participate in an interview please either leave your contact details in the relevant section of the survey above or contact one of the researchers below.

 

Please note that this study has been approved by the Queensland University of Technology Human Research Ethics Committee (approval number 1300000176

 

Many thanks for your consideration of this request.

 

 

Eric Brymer

Susan Houge Mackenzie

Assistant Professor

Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
+805.756.1288
shougema@calpoly.edu

School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences

Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation

Faculty of Health, QUT

+61 7 07 3138 3511

eric.brymer@qut.edu.au

           

But IT is also restorative?

I was recently invited to take part in a connecting to nature one day event organised by ACF and attended by some distinguished guests which included Richard Louv. It was wonderful to hear what different organisations are doing to develop opportunities to get outside and in nature. However, it got me thinking …. Why do young people prefer time with electronics, or TV or similar. Can we really blame the cotton wool society? is it really just a lack of opportunity? If we did have more opportunities for young people to get back into nature would it really make such a big difference? Are we so passionate about the benefits that we are missing something really important here?
I was talking about this with a good friend of mine who is also a psychologist and a very big fan of computer games. From his perspective nature is something to be avoided and only entered if a necessity. I asked him what he got from his games and he told me that he found his time with computer games engaging, restorative and relaxing he described the experience in terms of excitement, being lost in the moment and providing an opportunity to connect with other like minded people. Not quite what I had expected. Since this conversation I have also had a chance to chat to some young people and found that many see TV and computers as relaxing and an opportunity for time out from the hustle and bustle of everyday. And indeed research has picked up on this as in Birmingham there is a virtual nature walk which means you don’t even have to leave your bedroom to walk on a virtual Cornwall beach.
It might be that the quality of these experiences are vastly different from the ones we are trying to promote and I for one certainly hope so. The evidence is there as well … We have wonderful work coming from a variety of centres around the world that are showing that views of nature (virtual, images of nature or real), opportunities to interact in nature (e.g. Running, walking or cricket) and opportunities to engage with nature all have health benefits. We have evidence now that a variety different types of activities undertaken in nature have benefits. Adventures ranging from soft thought hard and to extreme adventures have been associated with health benefits. Physical activity is also something that has been shown to have benefits from sedentary activities to vigorous activities. We have studies on forest bathing, green exercise and wilderness trips. We even have a few meta analysis that suggest nature has something more than just increasing physical activity.
However, we also have studies that show the opposite, studies that force us to sit up and rethink our strategies. It is not enough I think to keep pushing the same story. If we are convinced we are right then we need to reconsider our theories, we need to understand more about exactly how does nature enhance health and wellbeing.
I was in another conversation on this matter recently and it seems I am not alone in these thoughts. If we really want to make a difference, counteract nature blindness, reconnect to nature we really need to be able to provide some answers to this question. Biophilia works to an extent .. But it is hard to test and easy to argue against. It works well for the converted …. But not for my game loving friend. ART and PET are also easy to refute.
We need something more. Research we have undertaken suggests that it is not so much about needing continual experiences that benefits health and wellbeing because we have found that feeling connected to nature is related to enhanced wellbeing.
There are some studies that are starting this journey. For example, a research group in UQ at the moment are working on an idea that characteristics of nature … E.g biodiversity, might be the key. This could be an interesting idea, in the UK there are suggestions that early experiences might trigger connections and it is these memories that stay with us.
I have an idea though that it will turn out to be based on the relationship between individual characteristics and environment characteristics. The romantic period instilled a perspective on nature that focuses on how nature looks however, when kids play in nature they are more interested in opportunities to do things. Streams become places to paddle, sticks become throwable or tools for digging, trees become climbable or places to hide. What if trees were also places to test out emotions … Something that opens up a variety or opportunities that might involve climbing but also opportunities to feel scared without being judged, feeling excited when the first branch is climbed even though we felt scared. What if the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, feelings that seem to happen all at once in a natural place facilitates a mindful state?
Finding out more about how the relationship between nature and people enhances our health and wellbeing will mean that we can speak more effectively to the non believers and the sceptics. We will be able to explain more effectively how to make the best use of public spaces, what needs to happen when we take children outdoors, how best to enhance planning policy and provide free health opportunities.

The Healthy Outdoors International Symposium

Our new initiative …. this is shaping up to be fun. I hope you can all join us

Eric

The Healthy Outdoors International Symposium
You are invited to register for The Healthy Outdoors International Symposium.

This event is the first of its kind and has attracted international experts and local specialists with both theoretical and hands-on experiences.

This is a valuable opportunity for the health, outdoor planning and outdoor recreation sectors to come together and build on our understanding of the reasons that the outdoors is so successful in delivering a wide range of health benefits.

Following on from the ‘Big Ideas in the Outdoors Forum’ held in May 2013, one of the key contextual concepts needing further investigation and analysis was the concept of “healthy outdoors”.

Hero image
Co-facilitated by the Queensland University of Technology, Queensland Outdoor Recreat

The health benefits of nature-based experiences

Without doubt humanity is part of the more than human world and we are currently doing to ourselves what we did to the tiger many years ago. We are caging ourselves and wondering why we are pacing up and down and why we are suffering. The health benefits of nature-based experiences are well documented now. The real question is how does nature benefit health. is it important to undertake a wilderness expedition or is it fine to have a plant that we look after. Why are so many people switching off from experiences such as gardening, walking in the park and so on? Why do I seem to speak to so many people who are more interested in computer games than being outside? Why is it that these very intelligent people describe their computer experiences in terms of relaxation, stress relief and so forth? Is nature really that beneficial after all or is it just one of many distractors that provide mental relief?
Of course, in my opinion anyway, the research is clear that nature does provide benefits in its own right. While many of us may be exploring the idea of ‘what is nature anyway,’ and how do we relate with nature It is important that we present a testable model to explore the how question .. A model that can be used to test ideas and concepts, that allows for all the myriad and complex possibilities and relationships …. This is where Ecological Dynamics comes in ….

More later

Eric

Extreme sports are good for your health

If you are interested there is a wonderful radio show in the US that is all about extreme sports and they called me the other day for an interview. Apparently the show is going out this Wednesday US time.  The post and link for this is below …

 This week on The Edge Radio, I’m interviewing extreme sports psychologist Eric Brymer. Unlike most psychologists who rank action sports athletes as high-risk takers, Brymer takes a different approach. He claims that it’s not about the risk. Extreme athletes aren’t “adrenaline junkies” on a death wish. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. According to Dr. Brymer’s latest study, extreme sports may actually be good for your health. 

 Don’t miss this interview tomorrow morning at 8am pacific time. Just follow the links below. 

http://kimkircher.com/2013/07/02/extreme-sports-are-good-for-your-health/

Risk buster!!! Extreme sports are not about risk

For the full article read:

Brymer, E. (2010) Risk and Extreme Sports: A phenomenological perspective, Annals of Leisure Research, 13(1&2), 218-239

Statistics suggest that participation rates in adventure and extreme sports are growing faster than traditional recreational sporting activities such as golf. Between 1998 and 2001 participation rates in extreme sports far outstripped any other sporting activity and this trend seems to be continuing. Interestingly theoretical perspectives that have been used to explain participation still focus on the notion that participants are a minority and assume that participation is about risk-taking. Participation has been explained as a function of a genetic or chemical status that differentiates participants from the norm. Researchers and theorists have also drawn on non-normal and even pathological personality traits, antisocial youth cultures, masculinity and narcissism to explain why some people are drawn to undertaking activities deemed to be socially unacceptable. In summary, a variety of theoretical perspectives present an argument that personality traits, socialisation processes, and previous experiences work to compel a participant to put their life at risk through extreme sports. From these theoretical, risk-taking perspectives extreme sports participation is: 1) a need or search for uncertainty and uncontrollability; 2) a pathological and unhealthy activity that results in self deception; and 3) a focus on undertaking an activity where death is probable for thrills and excitement.

However, evidence suggests that risk is not the focus.  Participants do not seem to demonstrate typical risk-taking behaviours or display typical personality characteristics of someone who would want to take irresponsible risks due to a pathological problem. Studies indicate that experienced participants display low levels of anxiety, a strong sense of reality and emotional control. One study found that participants exhibited self-responsibility and were deemed to be resourceful, energetic and adaptable. Men and women shared personality characteristics that included above average intelligence, above average desire for success and recognition, above average independence, self-assertiveness and forthrightness. Another study on Mountaineers found low neuroticism and high extraversion. Extreme individuals are also generally more relaxed and less governed by super-ego than the average population. Any assumption that participants might take risks through overconfidence or overestimation of their abilities would also be erroneous

Statistical comparison between the death rates of motorcyclists, BASE-jumpers and climbers also suggest that extreme sports may not be risk oriented. A study undertaken in the UK found that the death rate for climbers was 1:4000 which compares favorably against motor cycle riding where the death rate is 1:500. An analysis of 20,850 BASE-jumps in Norway over 11 years and found that the death rate was 1:2317 and while the injury rate was high they were in the main linked to sprains and bruises. Perhaps then the tendency to focus on theories that search for labels involving ‘risk’ and/or ‘thrills’ is entirely missing the point. That is, extreme sports are not synonymous with risk and participation may not be about risk taking. Theoretically driven methodologies that focus on risk may reflect judgments that do not relate to participants lived experience and might actually be more about researcher assumptions.

Current risk oriented perspectives on extreme sports are limited in their ability to explain participation. Only last weekend I was part of a radio talk show with 3 wonderful people who had experienced extreme events. None of these people deserved the risk-taking label. This assumed relationship between extreme sports and risk needs to be rethought. Risk-taking is not the focus. Participants acknowledge that the potential outcome of a mismanaged mistake or accident could be death, however, accepting this potential outcome does not mean that they search for risk. Participants argue that many everyday life events (e.g. driving) are high-risk events. Participants undertake detailed preparation in order to minimise the possibility of negative outcomes because extreme sports trigger a range of positive experiential outcomes. The downside of this negative risk taking focus is that we may be missing something vital, something that can add to human experience and help us understand what it means to be human.

 

References

American Sports Data (2002, August 1 2002). “Generation Y” drives increasingly popular “extreme” sports. Retrieved from http://www.americansportsdata.com/pr-extremeactionsports.asp

Baker, T., & Simon, J. (2002). Taking risks: extreme sports and the embrace of risk in advanced liberal societies. In Embracing risk: The changing culture of insurance and responsibility (pp. 177-208). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bennett, G., Henson, R. K., & Zhang, J. (2003). Generation Y’s Perceptions of the Action Sports Industry Segment. Journal of sport management, 17(2), 95-115.

Breivik, G. (1996). Personality, sensation seeking and risk taking among Everest climbers. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 27, 308-320.

Brymer, E. (2005). Extreme dude: a phenomenological exploration into the extreme sport experience. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wollongong, Wollongong.

Brymer, E., & Oades, L. (2009). Extreme Sports: A positive transformation in courage and humility. Journal of Humanistic Psychology.

Celsi, R. L., Rose, R. L., & Leigh, T. W. (1993). An exploration of high-risk leisure consumption through skydiving. Journal of Consumer Research, 20, 1-23.

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Hunt, J. C. (1995). Divers’ accounts of normal risk. Symbolic Interaction, 18(4), 439-462.

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Pollay, R. W. (2001). Export “A” ads are extremely expert, eh? Tobacco Control, 10, 71-74.

Robinson, V. (2004). Taking risks:Identity, masculinities and rock climbing. In B. Wheaton (Ed.), Understanding lifestyle sports: Consumption, identity and difference (pp. 113-130). London: Routledge.

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