Through the Eyes of She: Exploring Women's Stewardship and Connection to Nature Using Mindfulness and Photo Elicitation in Newfoundland and Labrador Parks and Protected Areas


  • Laura Bass Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • T.A. Loeffler Memorial University of Newfoundland



mindfulness, women, barriers, photo elicitation, nature


Urbanization contributes to a collective disconnection from nature and an increase in mental health-related illnesses. Women were the focus for this research, as they disproportionately experience anxiety, depression, phobias, and comorbidity of conditions. This qualitative study investigated the mental health benefits of practicing mindfulness in nature, and its influence on stewardship in Newfoundland and Labrador Parks and Protected areas. Feminist narrative inquiry and semi-structured interviews were used to explore ten women’s stories from parks and nature-based experiences. Drawing on the influences of attention restoration theory and mindfulness, this research used photo elicitation to explore natural features that provoked feelings of mindfulness. Barriers to participation were gender-related issues including fear, ethic of care, and financial and time constraints. Participation was facilitated by relationships, community, empowerment, and green exercise. Practicing mindfulness in natural spaces influenced feelings of deeper connection and environmental stewardship.



Allen-Craig, S., Gray, T., Charles, R., Socha, T., Cosgriff, M., Mitten, D., & Loeffler, TA. (2020). Together we have impact: Exploring gendered experiences in outdoor leadership. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education and Leadership, 12(1), 121-139.

Barbaro, N., & Pickett, S. (2016). Mindfully green: Examining the effect of connectedness to nature on the relationship between mindfulness and engagement in pro-environmental behaviour. Personality and Individual Differences, 93, 137-142.

Barton, J., Bragg, R., Pretty, J., Roberts, J., & Wood, C. (2016). The wilderness expedition: An effective life course intervention to improve young people’s well-being and connectedness to nature. Journal of Experiential Education, 39(1), 59-72.

Besthorn, F., & McMillen, D. (2002). The oppression of women and nature: Ecofeminism as a framework for an expanded ecological social work. The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 83(3), 221-232.

Botta, R. A., & Fitzgerald, L. (2020). Gendered experiences in the backcountry. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education and Leadership, 12(1), 27-41. DOI: 10.18666/JOREL-2020-V12-I1-9924

Buckley, R., Brough, P., Hague, L., Chauvenet, A., Fleming, C., Roche, E., Sofija, E., & Harris, N. (2019). Economic value of protected areas via visitor mental health. Nature Communications, 10(5005).

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2022). Mental Health and Addictions: Facts and Statistics.

Capaldi, C., Dopko, R., & Zelenski, J. (2014). The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 976.

Clarke, F., Kotera, T., & McEwan, K. (2021). A qualitative study comparing mindfulness and shinrin-yoku (forest bathing): Practitioners' perspective. Sustainability, 13. DOI: 10.3390/su13126761

Coble, T., Selin, S., & Erickson, B. (2003). Hiking alone: Understanding fear, negotiation strategies and leisure experiences. Journal of Leisure Research, 35(1), 1-22.

Gabrielsen, L., & Harper, N. (2018). The role of wilderness therapy for adolescents in the face of global trends of urbanization and technification. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 23(4), 409-421.

Giles, A., & Oncescu, J. (2021). Single women’s leisure during the Coronavirus pandemic. Leisure Sciences, 43(1), 204-210.

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. (n.d). Environment and Climate Change: Protected Areas in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Gray, T., & Mitten, D. (2018). The Palgrave international handbook of women and outdoor learning. Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education.

Hansen, M., Jones, R., & Tocchini, K. (2017). Shinrin-yoku (Forest Bathing) and nature therapy: A state-of-the-art review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(8), 1-49.

Hawkins, B., Townsend, J., & Garst, B. (2016). Nature-based recreational therapy for military service members: A strengths approach. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 50(1), 1-21. DOI:10.18666/TRJ-2016-V50-I1-6793

Henderson, K. A., & Allen, K. R. (1991). The ethic of care: Leisure possibilities and constraints for women. Society and Leisure, 14(1), 97-113.

Hurly, J., & Walker, G. J. (2019). Nature in our lives: Examining the human need for nature relatedness as a basic psychological need. Journal of Leisure Research. 50(4).

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2015). Mindfulness. Mindfulness, 6, 1481-1483.

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 169-182.

Klemmer, C., & McNamara, K. (2020). Deep ecology and ecofeminism: Social work to address global environmental crisis. Journal of Women and Social Work, 35(4), 503-515. DOI: 10.1177/0886109919894650

Lloyd, K., O’Brien, W., & Riot, C. (2016). Mothers with young children: Caring for the self through the physical activity space. Leisure Sciences, 0(0), 1-15.

Loeffler, TA. (2004). A photo elicitation study of the meanings of outdoor adventure experiences. Journal of Leisure Research, 36(4), 536-556.

Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Workman Publishing, New York.

Louv, R. (2012). The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Nature in a Digital Age. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Lovelock, K., Lovelock, B., Jellum, C., & Thompson, A. (2011). In search of belonging: immigrant experiences of outdoor nature-based settings in New Zealand. Leisure Studies, 30(4), 513-529.

Maller, C., Townsend, M., St. Leger, L., Henderson-Wilson, C.., Pryor, A., Prosser, L., & Moore, M. (2009). Healthy parks, healthy people: The health benefits of contact with nature in a park context. George Wright Forum, 26(2), 1-34.

Mayer, S., & McPherson Frantz, C. (2004). The connectedness to nature scale: A measure of individuals feeling in community with nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24(4), 503-515. DOI:10.1016/j.jenvp.2004.10.001

Mitten, D., Overhold, J., Haynes, F., D'Amore, C., & Ady, J. (2016). Hiking: A low cost, accessible intervention to promote health benefits. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 12(4).

Newman, S., Herrmann, D., Naaman, K., Means, T., Tysor, D., Berman, R., Walter, A., Robledo, M., & Oliphant, E. (2018). Social and integrative approaches to health in Zion National Park. The George Wright Forum, 35(3), 312-325.

Nisbet, E., & Lem, M. (2015). Prescribing a dose of nature: Modern medicine is rediscovering the simple healing power of being outdoors. Alternatives Journal, 41(2), 36-40.

Olson, E., Hansen, M., & Vermeesch, A. (2020). Mindfulness and Shinrin-Yoku: Potential for physiological and psychological interventions during uncertain times. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17, 9340. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17249340.

Park, B. J., Furuya, K., Kasetani, T., Takayama, N., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaka, Y. (2001). Relationship between psychological responses and physical environments in forest settings. Landscape and Urban Planning, 102(1), 24-32. DOI:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2011.03.005

Pohl, S., Borrie, W., & Patterson, M. (2000). Women, wilderness and everyday life: A documentation of the connection between wilderness recreation and women’s everyday lives. Journal of Leisure Research, 32(4), 415-434. DOI:10.1080/00222216.2000.11949925

Schutte, N., & Mlouff, J. (2018). Mindfulness and connectedness to nature: A meta-analytic investigation. Personality and Individual Differences, 127, 10-14. 10.1016/j.paid.2018.01.034

Stanley, P. (2020). Unlikely hikers? Activism, Instagram, and the queer mobilities of fat hikers, women hiking alone and hikers of colour. Mobilities, 15(2), 241-256. DOI: 10.1080/17450101.2019.1696038

Statistics Canada. (2021). Table 13-10-0096-01. Health characteristics, annual estimates. DOI:

Swami, V., Barron, D., Todd, J., Horne, G., & Furnham, A. (2020). Nature exposure and positive body image: (Re-)examining the mediating roles of connectedness to nature and trait mindfulness. Body image, 34, 201–208.

Tracey, D., Gray, T., Turong, S., & Ward, K. (2018). Combining acceptance and commitment therapy with adventure therapy to promote psychological well-being for children at-risk. Frontiers of Psychology, 9(1565), 1-9.

Ulrich, R., Simons, R., Losito, B., Fiorito, E., Miles, M., & Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11, 201-230.

Unsworth, S., Palicki, S., & Lustig, J. (2016). The Impact of Mindful Meditation in Nature on Self-Nature Interconnectedness. Mindfulness, 7(5), 1052-1060. DOI:10.1007/s12671-016-0542-8

Wesely, J., & Gaarder, E. (2004). The gendered “nature” of the urban outdoors: Women negotiating fear of violence. Gender & Society, 18(5), 645-663.

Wolsko, C., & Lindberg, K. (2013). Experiencing connection with nature: the matrix of psychological well-being, mindfulness and outdoor recreation. Ecopsychology, 5(2), 80-91.

Woodiwiss, J., Smith, K., & Lockwood, K. (2017). Introduction: Doing feminist narrative research. Feminist Narrative Research, Opportunities and Challenges. DOI: 10.1057/978-1-137-48568-7_1

Wright, P., & Matthews, C. (2014). Building a culture of conservation: Research findings and research priorities on connecting people to nature in parks. Parks, 21(2). DOI:10.2305/IUCN.CH.2014.PARKS-21-2PAW.en






Regular Papers