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* Greater Good Research Digests offer short summaries of recent studies on happiness, empathy, compassion, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to! Subscribe to our Research Digest feed to receive future digests in your Inbox.

 

Mindfulness and Nature

"Nature Connectedness: Associations with Well-Being and Mindfulness "

Howell, A.J., Dopko, R.L., Passmore, H., Buro, K. Personality and Individual Differences, Vol. 51 (2), July 2011, 166-171.

This study suggests that stargazers and tree huggers might be developing more then neck strain and splinters; in fact, connection to nature might provide some strong social and emotional benefits. The researchers asked 452 people how connected they felt to nature, and compared this with their social, emotional, and psychological well-being, including their satisfaction with life and feelings of social acceptance. The researchers also looked at the participants’ levels of mindfulness, defined as non-judgment of oneself and moment-to-moment awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings.

The results show that connection to nature was associated with feelings of awe, vitality, purpose in life, and positive emotions. Nature lovers also showed high moment-to-moment awareness, though they didn’t necessarily seem to do well on self-judgment. Essentially, taking a walk in nature may not prevent you from judging yourself and your life, but it will help you be in the present moment of your experience. —Eve Ekman

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Does Religion Make You Healthier in Old Age?

"The Role of Religion, Spiritual Experience, Forgiveness and Religious Support on General Well Being of Older Adults"

Kyoung, Lee Hag. Journal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging, Vol. 23 (3), May 2011, 206-233.

This study looked at how religion and spirituality relate to the social, psychological, and physical well-being of 143 people over 65. The results show that elderly people who report more frequent spiritual experiences show lower levels of anxiety, higher positive well-being, and more vitality. The researchers speculate that this might be because the positive feelings people get from spiritual experiences might buffer them against the strains and stresses of old age. Interestingly, 60 percent of respondents reported becoming more religious as they got older. Write the researchers: “When social work practitioners and health care providers ignore the religious/spiritual component of older adults’ lives, they may miss this population group’s strengths, which can be used to cope with the psychological and physical problems brought on by aging.” —Eve Ekman

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