Did you know that a trip to Londolozi can actually do more than just give you a relaxing holiday away? It can also help to make you a more kind and generous person. I’ve always found that nature helps people be the best versions of themselves but now we have the science to prove it.

manyaleti, dusk, landscape, SC

Londolozi guests explore the hidden corners of the Manyaleti riverbed at dusk. Apparently just the mere experience of being in nature can make you happier and healthier. Photograph by Sean Cresswell

A recent article in Yes Magazine states that “scientists are beginning to find evidence that being in nature has a profound impact on our brains and our behavior, helping us to reduce anxiety, brooding, and stress, and to increase our attention capacity, creativity, and ability to connect with other people.” Although these are all profound impacts in and of themselves, the one that really jumped out at me was the evidence that nature makes us more kind and generous

elephant, makomsava, trees, SC

A young elephant feeds slowly through a forest of Leadwood trees. It always seems to me that their are whisperings going on here that we can’t hear. Photograph by Sean Cresswell

In a series of experiments published in 2014, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, took two groups and made them play two games that measured generosity and trust respectively. Each group was shown two very different scenes before they played the games though. The first were shown really beautiful scenes and the second less naturally beautiful scenes. The group that saw the more beautiful natural scenes acted more generously and with trust in the games than the group who saw less beautiful natural scenes.

The researchers believed “the effects appeared to be due to corresponding increases in positive emotion.”

manyaleti, dusk, clouds, AR

A view of the Manyaleti Riverbed as the evening closes in. With grasslands, rocky outcrops and riverbeds interspersed throughout Londolozi, there is always a beautiful natural scene to take in. Photograph by Amanda Ritchie

elephants, JT

A herd of elephants drink from a waterhole. Photograph by James Tyrrell

In another part of the study, the researchers asked people to fill out a survey about their emotions while sitting at a table where more or less beautiful plants were placed. Afterwards, the participants were told that the experiment was over and they could leave, but that if they wanted to they could volunteer to make paper cranes for a relief effort program in Japan. The number of cranes they made (or didn’t make) was used as a measure of their “prosociality” or willingness to help.

Results showed that the presence of more beautiful plants significantly increased the number of cranes made by participants, and that this increase was, again, mediated by positive emotion elicited by natural beauty.

An impala lily blooming in winter. Even if we can’t always be surrounded by natural scenes like this one, according to recent studies, it seems even just a beautiful pot plant in your office can help to improve your day. Photograph by Rich Layburn

Thinking about the responses people have to the beautiful landscapes and animal sightings at Londolozi, this makes perfect sense. Upon returning from game drive or at the end of their stay, people are typically more relaxed, friendlier and more upbeat than when they arrive. It seems that the sense of wonder, awe and feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself may be leading to this kinder and gentler behaviour. The gin and tonics may have something to do with this too…

nkoveni leopard cubs

The Nkoveni female leopard with one of her newest cubs. This was the very first sighting of these cubs at just a few weeks old.

lions, sand river,

The Tsalala Pride crossing the Sand River. It seems that the sense of wonder, awe and feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself, which you get out in the bush here, may be leading to kinder and gentler behaviour.

Support for this theory on awe and positivity also comes from an experiment conducted by Paul Piff and colleagues of the University of California, Irvine. In the study participants staring up at a grove of very tall trees for as little as one minute experienced measurable increases in awe, and demonstrated more helpful behaviour and approached moral dilemmas more ethically, than participants who spent the same amount of time looking up at a high building.

leadwood, trees, walking, AR

Guests take a walk through a grove of Leadwood trees, one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring places on Londolozi. Photograph by Amanda Ritchie

Despite the increasingly technologically connected world we live in, it seems modern humans feel more disconnected from others every day. In nature though, this divide is softened and we naturally feel a greater sense of peace and happiness. As a result of this happiness, science shows that we actually behave in more beautiful ways.

spider web, AA

A spider web captured in the morning dew.”When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”- John Muir. Photograph by Amy Attenborough

elephants, sunset, RL

A herd of elephants move towards a setting sun, closing off a beautiful day on Londolozi. Photograph by Rich Layburn

It seems to me that the more loving you are to yourself, the more capacity you have to be loving to others. So next time you feel guilty for booking a holiday away to the bush, be rest assured that you’re not only doing yourself a favour but all those around you too.

About the Author

Amy Attenborough

Media Team

Amy has a rich field-guiding history, having spent time at both Phinda and Ngala Game Reserves. This diversity of past guiding locations brought her an intimate understanding of different biomes across South Africa, and she immediately began making a name for herself as ...

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10 Comments

on Evidence That Nature Makes Us Kinder

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Chuck
Guest

I really enjoyed reading today’s blog, Amy. The photos are beautiful.

Amy Attenborough

Thanks Chuck!

Dina
Guest

Hello Amy, I can tell you that being in Africa on safari makes me a happy person and certainly makes me feel humble . But to generalise all this is, like a lot of these kind of studies , a bit dangerous .Even if some people react the same , a lot will react completely different and they need the city for instance or they get nervous! …Even our own children are not attracted to nature and they went with us on safari to show them how great it is !

Amy Attenborough

Absolutely Dina! Agreed. It is just interesting to see that there is some scientific evidence to back up the feeling so many of us get in nature. Hope that being on safari helped to sway your children a bit. Thanks, Amy

Lea
Guest

So true Amy. Nice blog. Animals and nature have a very calming influence on our psych. It rubs off on others.

Jeff Rodgers
Guest

Thank you for this beautifully written article. I am never more serene & happy than when I am on a game drive.

Diane
Guest

Amy ! First of all , your photography is amazing and your love of Londolozi is witnessed in all you do .
This article truly touched me as I know in myself how being in nature and mostly with animals ; how my heart and soul expands . It is all about the”AWE” factor that we ALL need more of . I feel no guilt and I’ll hopefully get to meet you next week!

Amy Attenborough

Hi Diane! So glad to hear it! Look forward to meeting you soon and wishing you a trip filled with awe 🙂 Best, Amy

Pam Chandor
Guest

Amy, Another inspiring post! Well done! I hope to see you soon 🙂

Amy Attenborough

Thanks Pam! Hope to see you here soon too!

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