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.
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…
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.”
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.