Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Carmel Mueller 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

Hi there, my name is Carmel and I will soon be graduating with a BSc in Applied Psychology from IADT. I have thoroughly enjoyed studying the various modules from the core programme as well as the technology modules. The program has equipped me with a lot of knowledge and practical skills that I can carry with me in my future endeavours. I am especially interested in the existential-humanistic model but also enjoy an intergrative framework when looking at the human condition. I hope to pursue a career where I help people, such as psychotherapy.

Project Description

Research has illuminated that exposure to nature can have the symbiotic benefit of improving the well-being of the individual and the well-being of the planet, highlighting the therapeutic benefits of nature not only on an individual level but also on a global level. Nature has also been shown to be a prime source of meaning for individuals, but limited research has investigated these factors in a correlational analysis. Undergraduates (N = 149) from IADT took part in this research.

Project Objectives

This project had two main aims: to investigate the relationship between exposure to nature, connectedness to nature, and experience of meaning, and to understand what makes individuals’ experiences in nature meaningful. The first aim was addressed with a multiple regression and the second using Braun and Clark’s (2006) thematic analysis by analysing the open-ended question of recalling a meaningful experience in nature.

Project Outcomes

The results indicated that there was a significant relationship between exposure to nature, connectedness to nature, and experience of meaning. There was a weak positive relationship between exposure to nature and connectedness to nature, and exposure to nature and experience of meaning. This finding contradicts previous research which has indicated at least a moderate relationship between exposure to nature and connectedness to nature. There was a moderate positive relationship between connectedness to nature and experience of meaning. This finding supports the recent literature.

Four over-arching themes were generated to answer the qualitative question of what makes individuals’ experiences in nature meaningful: enhanced well-being, transpersonal qualities, activities in nature, and places. The first theme, enhanced well-being, encompassed how nature helped participants through difficult times, aided with connection (e.g., spending quality time with friends and family), and induced relaxation through enjoyable sensory experiences such as listening to birds or seeing arrays of colour. The second theme, transpersonal qualities, describes how participants were moved by the beauty of nature, were full of awe, had spiritual experiences and a sense of oneness. The third theme, activities in nature, included physical exercise such as hiking and swimming, and meditation. The final theme, places, encompassed precious childhood memories and nostalgia of certain places, exploration of natural environments, and specific natural environments (e.g., lakes, parks, forests, and mountains).

Overall, this project suggests that the quantity of time spent in nature might not be as important as focusing on the quality of the experience. An example of enhancing one's quality in nature could be achieved through having transpersonal experiences (e.g., moved by beauty or awe of nature).

Thesis Title

Exposure to Nature, Connectedness to Nature, and Experience of Meaning: A Correlational study with a Qualitative element Investigating what makes Experiences in Nature Meaingful.