Journal Article

Access to nature fosters well-being in solitude


There has been growing interest in the ways that individuals connected with nature during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly when they were alone in solitude. This study explored key themes describing individuals’ relationships with nature during this period and, more specifically, when individuals were relating to nature during time spent alone. Sixty participants (aged 19–80 years) discussed solitude during in-depth interviews. Participants were from different backgrounds and 20 different countries of origin. Thematic analysis was conducted by two architects (who may have been sensitive to the functional interaction of spaces in connecting people and nature) and identified descriptions of nature from broader narratives of solitude and time spent alone. Extracts from interview transcripts were coded using hierarchical thematic analysis and a pragmatist approach. The results showed that natural spaces were integral to experiencing positive solitude and increased the chance that solitude time could be used for rest, rejuvenation, stress relief, and reflective thought. Being in their local natural spaces also allowed participants to more spontaneously shift from solitude to social connection, supporting a sense of balance between these two states of being. Finally, solitude in nature, in part because of attention to shifting weather, gave a new perspective. As a result, participants reported increased species solidarity—the awareness that humans are part of an ecosystem shared with other species. We interpret the results in terms of the implications for built environments and the importance of accessing nature for well-being.

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Samangooei, Mina
Saull, Ralph
Weinstein, Netta

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Architecture


Year of publication: 2023
Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-06-27

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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