Nature Connectedness Research Group

Our nature connections research aims to understand people’s sense of their relationship with the natural world. We create everyday interventions in order to improve this relationship for the wellbeing of humans and nature. Our research is good for nature and it is good for you. Let nature be your story.

What we do

Our story is nature. The human relationship with the rest of nature matters for our well-being, yet the climate and environment emergency shows that the human relationship with the rest of nature is broken. To fix it we need a new more connected relationship that recognises that we are part of nature. This is a relationship that will bring both pro-nature behaviours and improved mental wellbeing.

Nature connectedness captures that relationship between people and the rest of nature. Nature connectedness is a measurable psychological construct that moves beyond contact with nature to an individual’s sense of their relationship with the natural world.

Our Nature Connectedness Research Group was the first to focus on this area. By understanding and improving people’s connection to nature, we aim to bring about associated benefits in wellbeing and conservation behaviour. We are proud to work with Natural England, National Trust, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and other national nature conservation NGOs (non-governmental organisations).

The group’s research has been honoured in the UK’s 100 Best Breakthroughs list, compiled by Universities UK, for its pioneering work looking at people’s sense of their relationship with the natural world.

What we're working on

We’re working on simple solutions for complex problems of climate change, biodiversity loss and mental wellbeing through improving the relationship between people and the rest of nature.

Pathways to nature connectedness

The pathways to nature connectedness provide a route for people to develop a new relationship with the natural world. This new relationship with nature can move beyond utility and control, beyond knowledge and identification. A new closer, healthier and more sustainable relationship with nature comes through noticing, feeling, beauty, celebration and care. Our pathways are:

National Trust and 50 things to do before you're 11¾

In 2018, the National Trust adopted the group’s Pathways to Nature Connection research to inform their engagement activities. This included helping to apply the pathways to a refreshed version of the national 50 things to do before you're 11¾ campaign in 2019.

Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature

We are leading one of four work packages in the £1.3 million IWUN project, funded as part of the Human Health and Wellbeing Goal of the Valuing Nature Programme. We have developed a smartphone-based intervention that has led to clinically significant improvements in mental health through noticing the good things in urban nature.

Nature Connections Indicator

We are part of the Nature Connection Indicator Working Group developing a national indicator for connection to nature - with Natural England, the RSPB, National Trust, Historic England, the Wildlife Trusts and others. The research has revealed physical contact with nature and nature connectedness provides extra but independent benefits to wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviours. The work has also revealed the level of nature connectedness across people's lifespan, identifying a sharp dip in teenage years.

30 Days Wild

We have been involved in the design and evaluation of 30 Days Wild, the Wildlife Trust’s campaign to get people to engage with nature every day each June. The evaluations for 2015, 2016 and 2017 found that those taking part were found to have sustained increases in happiness, health, connection to nature and pro-nature behaviours.

Pro-nature conservation behaviours

We have created the first scale to measure pro-nature conservation behaviours. This aims to help nature’s restoration and evaluate interventions designed to increase behaviours that are pro-nature. It differs from common measures of pro-environmental behaviours that are often based on our carbon footprint.

Wellbeing - feeling good and functioning well

In a systematic review of 50 research studies involving 16,396 people, we investigated the links between their connection with nature and two types of happiness – feeling good and functioning well. We found that people who are more connected to nature tend to have greater eudaimonic well-being - meaning they are functioning well - and in particular have higher levels of self-reported personal growth.  

Nature Connections conference series

We host the Nature Connections conference series. The conferences provide a forum for understanding the scale and scope of the latest research and practice in nature connection, exploring evidence on how nature connection supports delivery of outcomes, and how this might inform the design of future work.

Other projects

We're also working on a variety of other research and evaluation projects. Also see Professor Miles Richardson's blog.

Miles Richardson

Leading the way

Professor Miles Richardson leads the Nature Connectedness Research Group. He is also Head of Psychology and Deputy Head of Life Sciences.

Find out more about MilesFind out more about Miles

Work with us

If you are interested in working with us on a research degree, or want to make use of our research expertise, please contact Professor Miles Richardson at m.richardson@derby.ac.uk

Charles, Cheryl; Keenleyside, Karen; Chapple, Rosalie; Kilburn, Bill; Salah van der Leest, Pascale; Allen, Diana; Richardson, Miles; Giusti, Matteo; Franklin, Lawrence; Harbrow, Michael; Wilson, Ruth; Moss, Andrew; Metcalf, Louise; Camargo, Luis. (2018). Home to Us All: How Connecting with Nature Helps Us Care for Ourselves and the Earth. Children & Nature Network.

Hughes, J., Richardson, M., & Lumber, R. (2018). Evaluating connection to nature and the relationship with conservation behaviour in children. Journal for Nature Conservation45, 11-19.

Richardson, M., & McEwan, K. (2018). 30 Days Wild and the Relationships Between Engagement With Nature’s Beauty, Nature Connectedness and Well-Being. Frontiers in Psychology9.

Richardson, M., McEwan, K., & Garip, G. (2018). 30 Days Wild: who benefits most? Journal of Public Mental Health17(3), 95-104.

Richardson, M., Hussain, Z. & Griffiths, M.D. (2018). Problematic Smartphone Use, Nature Connectedness, and Anxiety. Journal of Addictive Behaviours.

Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E. & Richardson, M. (2018). Mindfulness and Nature. Mindfulness. doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0883-6

Lumber, R., Richardson, M. & Sheffield, D. (2018). The pathways to Nature Connectedness: A focus group exploration. European Journal of Ecopsychology, 6: 47-68.

Richardson, M. (2018). Growing our care for nature. National Trust.

Lumber, R., Richardson, M., & Sheffield, D. (2017). Beyond knowing nature: Contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty are pathways to nature connection. PLoS One, 12(5).

Richardson, M., Maspero, M., Golightly, D., Sheffield, D., Staples, V. & Lumber, R. (2017). Nature: A new paradigm for wellbeing and ergonomics. Ergonomics, 60(2).

Richardson, M. & Sheffield, D. (2017). Three good things in nature: Noticing nearby nature brings sustained increases in connection with nature. Psyecology8(1), 1-32.

Hunt, A., Stewart, D., Richardson, M., Hinds J., Bragg, R., White, M. and Burt, J. (2017). Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment: developing a method to measure nature connection across the English population (adults and children). Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number 233. York.

Lumber, R., Hunt, A., Richardson, M. and Harvey, C. (2017). Nature Connections 2016 conference report: Implications for research and practice. Derby: University of Derby

Richardson, M., McEwan, K., Maratos, F. & Sheffield, D. (2016). Joy and Calm: How an Evolutionary Functional Model of Affect Regulation Informs Positive Emotions in Nature. Evolutionary Psychological Science. doi:10.1007/s40806-016-0065-5

Richardson, M., Cormack, A., McRobert, L. & Underhill, R. (2016). 30 Days Wild: Development and Evaluation of a Large-Scale Nature Engagement Campaign to Improve Well-Being. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0149777. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149777

Richardson, M., Sheffield, D., Harvey, C. & Petronzi (2016). A Report for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB): The Impact of Children’s Connection to Nature. Derby: College of Life and Natural Sciences, University of Derby.

Richardson, M., Hallam, J. & Lumber, R. (2015). One thousand good things in nature: The aspects of nature that lead to increased nature connectedness. Environmental Values, 24 (5), 603-619.

Richardson, M., & Sheffield, D. (2015). Reflective self-attention: A more stable predictor of connection to nature than mindful attention. Ecopsychology, 7 (30), 166-175.