Human–animal interactions: Expressions of wellbeing through a “nature language”

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Human–animal interactions (HAIs) can be beneficial for humans in a number of ways, and interactions with wild animals may contribute to human mental wellbeing, partly through nature connectedness. This study applies the “Nature Interaction Pattern” approach (proposed by Kahn and colleagues) to characterize the structure of meaningful human engagement with nature and animals, and to consider the wellbeing outcomes. This qualitative, retrospective study uses open responses from 359 participants who describe how their wild animal encounters affected their nature connectedness. Thematic analysis explores five nature Interaction Patterns and four resulting Psychological Descriptions that occur in the portrayals of the marine animal encounters and these are described using representative quotes. Feelings of love, belonging, positive feelings, fulfillment and the gaining of perspective, were linked with the human–animal experience and the Interaction Patterns. These findings suggest that when people encounter and interact with animals in their natural environment, their mental health and wellbeing may be enhanced. Further, through connecting with nature and animals, reciprocity may occur, that is, when people connect with nature and animals, they can also give back. Within this interaction there becomes an entanglement of experiences thereby encouraging caring for nature and animals.

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