Dr. Kim Meidenbauer: Barriers From Connecting With Nature | Doing Well #19

In this episode, host Lu Ngo is joined by Kim Meidenbauer, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Washington State University and director of the WSU Social, Cognitive, & Environmental Neuroscience (SCENe) Lab

This episode tackles the cognitive and emotional benefits of nature and how to overcome the obstacles that can hinder your connection with it. 

Meet Kim Meidenbauer

Dr. Kim is an Assistant Professor at Washington State University, specializing in social, cognitive, and environmental neuroscience. Her expertise lies in examining how the physical environment impacts our brains, emotions, cognitive functioning, and social behaviors. 

She is passionate about learning and developing new research methods, prioritizing open science practices. Alongside her research, Dr. Kim finds joy in teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students.

About the episode

Dr. Kim explored the complex nature of defining well-being, emphasizing that there is no universally agreed-upon definition. According to her, well-being involves finding contentment and inner peace, even in less-than-ideal circumstances. 

She highlighted the importance of positive life circumstances and attitudes as precursors to well-being. Dr. Kim challenged misconceptions about well-being, such as the notion that constant happiness is necessary. She also emphasized the significance of small positive events and cautioned against overestimating the impact of negative events. 

Financial stability contributes to well-being, but beyond a certain point, increased wealth does not necessarily correlate with increased happiness. Ultimately, Dr. Kim encouraged finding balance and appreciating life’s positive aspects.

The positive effects of spending time in nature on emotional well-being are often underestimated. Dr. Kim noted that many individuals undervalue the transformative experience of connecting with nature and fail to recognize the potential for improved well-being through increased exposure. 

Lack of awareness regarding the benefits and barriers to accessing natural environments can hinder prioritizing outdoor activities. Overcoming these obstacles requires acknowledging nature as a source of pleasure and actively seeking its emotional and physical health benefits.

Though the term “affective” may be unfamiliar in everyday language, Dr. Kim highlighted its significance in scientific research. Extensive studies indicate that spending time in nature leads to positive emotional states and reduced negativity, as supported by meta-analyses. 

Physiological changes, such as decreased cortisol levels and heart rate, reflect a diminished stress response as well.

Furthermore, individuals report feeling more energized, happy, and connected to both others and their surroundings after immersing themselves in nature. Dr. Kim noted that exercising outdoors in natural environments yields greater emotional benefits compared to indoor exercise.

In conclusion

Incorporating nature into your daily life can have a positive impact on your well-being. Take a moment to notice the natural elements around you, even in urban environments. These small choices can provide a refreshing connection to nature amidst the hustle and bustle of city life. 

If going outside is not feasible, find solace in watching nature documentaries or immersing yourself in beautiful nature images. These visual experiences can help you feel connected to the natural world and bring a sense of tranquility and appreciation into your day-to-day routine. 

By embracing these practices, you can nurture your well-being and cultivate a deeper connection with the wonders of nature.

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