Fear is good for your health

In an article published a couple of years ago we proposed that despite being labelled as unpleasant fear could actually be good for you. It is after all just one more emotion, something that provides information that invites a response of some kind. We can either interpret this as bad and react accordingly or on the other hand we could see this as good and as important information. I the first instance we are supposed to be preventing far and avoiding it, perhaps even finding ways to no longer feel fear. Yu may even recognise this as being part of many pop psychology programmes. If we interpret the experience in the second way then fear becomes information like any other information, something that tells us to take the experience seriously. We may then make sure that were really prepared, hat we are ready for the experience, that we have the skills, that the environment is right and so forth.
It is this second aspect that interests me today. I was walking in the woods the other day with my family. We spotted all sorts of wonderful creatures not usually found in an English wood. We saw Tiger pug marks and tracked them for a while and were sure that a Tiger was following us. We came across baby elephant dung, although it could have been rhino? At one stage we even came across an eight foot tall Yeti cunningly disguised as a bush. After about an hour of this my eleven year old son started a conversation about fear. I have been thinking he said about how to see fear, you could use the letters as a memory. F for feeling (are you feeling alright), E for expertise (do you have the right expertise)’ A for Assess the environment (is the environment supportive) and R for right time (even if you assess your attitude, capabilities and the environment as positive, is it the right time?). We then proceeded to see how it might work in a variety of contexts … we were happy with it.
What a wonderful start !!

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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.