Connecting with nature during COVID-19: the effect of a Time on the land program on perceptions of experiences of affect and stress in adults

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Greenwood, Brooke E. M.
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Education
Social restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, imposed significant barriers for individuals seeking mental health supports and coping resources which negatively impacted wellbeing. Over the past couple of decades, spending time in nature has become an increasingly popular coping resource for enhancing wellbeing. To bridge affordability, safety, and accessibility, Dreamcatcher Nature Assisted Therapy developed a Time on the Land therapeutic recreation program to provide a unique opportunity for individuals and families to escape the unique stressors imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and connect with nature by interacting with animals and exploring rural farm environment located in Ardrossan, Alberta. With a focus on investigating emotional wellbeing, this mixed-methods pre-post research study explored the effect of Time on the Land on perceptions of perceived stress, affect, and potential mechanisms underlying such changes in adults during the COVID-19 pandemic (July to November 2021). Data was gathered from 48 participants and datasets were compared at two points in time; baseline, and post-session after participants attended a one-hour session of Time on the Land. Significant differences in perceived stress, negative affect, and positive affect were observed. Participants reported subjective experiences of Time on the Land derived five common qualitative themes which were considered as perceived mechanisms that facilitated changes in stress and affect: (1) being immersed in the moment, (2) a psychological sanctuary, (3) a greater sense of purpose, (4) gained broader perspective, and (5) human-nature relationship. Further, mixed methods analysis provided opportunity to identify and explore implications of harnessing nature-based experiences within therapeutic, and daily settings. Findings extend previous theoretical perspectives, highlight potential new pathways of benefits, and explore how an interactive relationship between humans and nature enhances adults’ emotional wellbeing.
COVID-19 pandemic , connecting with nature , affect , stress , adults , mental health , emotional wellbeing