Active Use of the Natural Environment for Emotion Regulation

Svein Åge Kjøs Johnsen, Leif W. Rydstedt


Two studies on the use of nature for emotion regulation were conducted. Study 1 (N = 35) ran over two weeks and was an experimental investigation. Participants in the experimental condition were asked to use a picture of nature actively as environmental stimuli for emotion regulation in their everyday life, while two control groups simply looked at a picture of nature or a picture of balloons each evening. A significant effect of the manipulation was found on positive mood, but the effect was complex with an initial increase and then a decrease. There were no findings on negative mood. Study 2 (N = 473) explored the motivational tendency to seek out nature when the participants were happy or sad. A novel concept (expectancy construct) was introduced to measure the perception of the emotion regulatory potential of different environments. The classical natural environment was rated highest on emotional potential of all environments tested here. Perceiving a higher emotional potential in nature was related to a higher intention to seek out nature when happy or sad. Personality and mood were also related to these concepts. Higher positive mood was related to the intention to seek out nature when happy. Conscientiousness was related to a more positive perception of nature. The studies support the notion that using nature may be an effective strategy for regulating one’s emotions.


nature; emotion regulation; self-regulation; environment; mood; person-environment studies

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