Dr. Mathers-Lowery Studies the Power of Nature, Publishes in Frontiers in Psychology

By Emily Horowitz | July 11, 2022
Dr. Becky Mathers-Lowery smiling in her office

Profound experiences with nature are shown to facilitate pro-environmental behavior later in life, according to research co-authored by Becky Mathers-Lowery, Ph.D., post-doctoral researcher, USTRIVE program.

“The Power of a Profound Experience With Nature: Living With Meaning,” by Dr. Mathers-Lowery and Eric Brymer, Ph.D., of Southern Cross University, was published in Frontiers in Psychology on June 2, 2022.

For the study, Dr. Mathers-Lowery interviewed 21 adult participants about a profound experience they had with nature, as well as its lasting effects on their lives. Some of the experiences they recounted include:

  • Encountering a giant cuttlefish while scuba diving
  • Learning to swim at age 49
  • Interning on an organic farm
  • Seeing an image of nature in a social worker’s office.

All of the participants considered their profound experiences an impetus for change in their lives. The authors categorized these changes into three themes: living in relation with nature, living authentically, and living a meaningful life.

Living in Relation With Nature

Shopping habits, resource use and amount of time spent outdoors were commonly altered following a profound experience with nature. For instance, one individual said that after a camping trip, she reduced her use of plastic water bottles and throwaway coffee cups and began composting.

Living Authentically

Consequences grouped under this category include: developing a sense of empowerment; reprioritizing values; and expanding spiritual beliefs.

Living a Meaningful Life

Many participants reported meaningful life changes as a result of their profound experiences, such as choosing an academic path or career track.