Exploring visitor wellbeing in parks and nature reserves
Deery, M., Filep, S. and Hughes, M. (2014) Exploring visitor wellbeing in parks and nature reserves. In: Voigt, C. and Pforr, C., (eds.) Wellness tourism: a destination perspective. Routledge, London, UK, pp. 161-175.
This chapter reports on a study that examined individual wellbeing (feeling good and experiencing a sense of meaning) of visitors to parks and nature reserves. Chapter 9 in this book outlines the role of parks as wellness tourism destinations. This relates to the observed common need for people to escape from urban settings and daily routines and experience nature as a means of rejuvenating wellbeing. Past work indicates that it is possible to differentiate between individual wellbeing and wellbeing at a community or group level. Researchers in neurology have established motivational drivers of play and lust, which are common for all humans and which can be recognised in human brains (Panksepp 2005). Fredrickson's (2001) seminal work on positive emotions similarly points to four core universal emotions of love, interest, joy and contentment, which are experienced by all humans. This research is based on an underlying assumption that there is a difference between what is experienced and how something is experienced. While everyone may experience a positive emotion of joy, there are many different situations for experiencing this positive emotion. Similarly, when people find their park visits meaningful there are multiple contexts for those meaningful experiences (e.g. being in a park alone and appreciating nature or being with a partner). Hence, while a formulaic definition of wellbeing may not exist, there is a difference between the psychological, often universal, nature of the wellbeing experience (Seligman 2011) and situational circumstances (such as being with friends while experiencing wellbeing). Sociological and anthropological analyses may embellish our individual and almost clinical focus on wellbeing. These analyses are, however, outside the scope of this chapter.
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