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The Moral Call of the Wild

from Scientific American

I love spending time outside. From wild places like the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to the mundane nature in my back yard, I find comfort in my natural experiences. These places are restful. Peaceful. ...

The benefits of spending time in nature have been well-documented. Psychological research has shown that natural experiences help to reduce stress, improve mood, and promote an overall increase in physical and psychological well-being. There is even evidence that hospital patients with a view of nature recover faster than do hospital patients without such a view. This line of research provides clear evidence that people are drawn to nature with good reason. It has restorative properties.

But 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.

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