Here’s an interesting story via the blog of former Field & Stream editor and noted vampire expert Scott Bowen.

Researchers at the University of Rochester have discovered that exposure to nature can actually change how we view the world.

From the story:
“…a recent article by researchers at the University of Rochester shows that experiences with nature can affect more than our mood. In a series of studies, Netta Weinstein, Andrew Przybylski, and Richard Ryan, University of Rochester, show that …

_… exposure to nature can affect our priorities and alter what we think is important in life. In short, we become less self-focused and more other-focused. Our value priorities shift from personal gain, to a broader focus on community and connection with others.

To demonstrate this effect, they ran a series of studies. In their first study, the researchers randomly assigned individuals to view a slide show that either depicted scenes of human-made or natural environments. The slides were matched across a variety of characteristics, to eliminate the possibility that the results were due to things like color, complexity, or brightness of the images. The participants were instructed to try to immerse themselves in the images–to notice the colors and textures and imagine the sounds and smells. After watching the slide show (which took about 8 minutes), the participants completed a series of questions about their life aspirations.”

“…These results are part of a growing body of evidence showing the powerful effect of natural experiences. And, for people like me who enjoy spending time in nature, the results are encouraging. However, when viewed within a larger societal context, the results also provide an intriguing perspective on some noted shifts in the values and priorities or Americans over the past 40 years. People living in the United States are spending much less time outdoors today than ever before. Data from a variety of sources show that on average, Americans are spending less time outdoors today than they did 30 or even 20 years ago. Children tend to spend more time outside than do adults, but that number too is declining. With the growth of Internet, social networking, on-demand programming, and computer games, there is more to keep us inside than there is to draw us out into the natural environment.”_

We’ve discussed the topic on this very blog a number of times, so far be it from me to continue beating a dead horse. It is, however, nice to see some empirical data to support our anecdotal certainty that the therapeutic and life-enhancing qualities of an HD-free lifestyle are very real. That’s why I’ve always believed that people who hunt, fish, hike, birdwatch or engage in any other nature-based activity tend to be – on average – much happier, less stressed and more laid-back than their angst-ridden concrete-dwelling cousins.

It’s becoming an accepted scientific certitude that having some individual relationship with nature – in whatever form it takes – is a touchstone of a healthy, well-adjusted person. The big question is: how to achieve it? Greener urban planning? School programs? More public land? Shooting the Playstation and smashing the cell phone? Good ideas, all.

But I see it as a perfect, gift-wrapped opportunity to promote the holistic and mental-health qualities of hunting and fishing. Hell, market it as shotgun-based Tai Chi. Whatever it takes to get the message out there, because the old paradigms and the old arguments – however valid they still are – are falling on deaf ears. Reinvention, re-making, rebranding; that’s the lubricant of modern society’s engine. Change, adapt or die. May not be right, but it is what it is, and if I were a state game agency, a hunting or fishing/based conservation organization or, yes, a hook-and-bullet magazine, I’d be firing my marketing department if they didn’t run with all this new research. I hate to say it, but we’ve got to figure out a way to make hunting and fishing…trendy.