IVN: Nature & Mental Health

The major problem that the modern world faces is climate change. Our client, IVN Nature Education, seeks to tackle this problem by connecting citizens to nature. To do so, they organize activities throughout the Netherlands, such as walks through the forest or volunteer work related to nature. With these activities, IVN wants to create an understanding of nature’s beauty and value among the people partaking in them. This way, IVN hopes to inspire them to take care of nature and to thus combat climate change on an individual level. Although the organization succeeds at engaging both adults with young children and the elderly, participation among young adults (ages 18-30) remains low. IVN’s solution for this is Nature Bits: short, educational activities in nature aimed at young adults. IVN would like for these to be supported by scientific insights, and has thus reached out to the Tesla Minor. Our task is to research what engages young adults and subsequently, to create a Nature Bit that invites them to experience nature. However, our scientific research for this project is broader, since climate change not only affects the world around us, but also individuals’ mental health and wellbeing in the form of eco-anxiety, disproportionately so in young adults (Pikhala, 2019). This, in combination with the effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns, worries IVN, who have therefore also asked us to conduct research on the effects that nature can have on mental health, specifically in young adults. Although it is generally accepted that these effects are beneficial, IVN would like to have an in-depth review of the current scientific insights. This review would clarify whether engaging with nature could benefit mental health or even prevent mental health decline, and thus establish whether there are additional benefits for young adults when they participate in a Nature Bit. Since we feel strongly about these key topics – nature and mental health – we are eager to work on IVN’s questions. We hope to apply our scientific knowledge and skills in supporting IVN’s endeavours and to bring our creativity into play when designing a Nature Bit.