Volume 4, Article 2

In “nature’s embrace”: Exploring connection to nature as experienced through wild swimming

Alexia Barrable, Tanya Uhnger Wünsche and Anna K. Touloumakos

Citation: Barrable, A., Wünsche, T. U., & Touloumakos, A. K. (2024). In “nature’s embrace”: Exploring connection to nature as experienced through wild swimming. Journal of Ecopsychology, 4, 2, 1-13. https://joe.nationalwellbeingservice.com/volumes/volume-4-2024/volume-4-article-2

Processing dates: Submitted 10th August 2023; Re-submitted: 27th September 2023; Accepted: 7th October 2023; Published 14th March 2024

Volume 4, Article 2

Background and aims: Previous research has highlighted the wellbeing benefits of engaging with blue spaces, including activities like wild swimming. In some of this previous research, the role of nature connection has been identified as a pathway towards wellbeing. This article aims to explore the human-nature relationship as experienced by those engaging in wild swimming and as facilitated by the act of wild swimming.
Methods: This is a qualitative study using data collected from four hundred and ninety five wild swimmers through an open-ended questionnaire. Thematic analysis allowed us to explore the pathways through which participants connect to the natural world when wild swimming.
Results: The experiences of immersion, a change of point of view, encounters with non-human nature, using the senses and the therapeutic effects of wild swimming are described by participants as supporting their nature connection. Pathways to nature connection through wild swimming included self-transcendence, shifts in perspective, empathy, awe and beauty and the feeling of being supported or cared for. Moreover, linking to those pathways, several dimensions of nature connection, as described by the participants, are identified. Finally, further links are made with pro-environmental behaviours, stemming from the aforementioned dimensions and pathways.
Discussion: Wild swimming represents a unique way to connect to the natural world, and this research paper explores the pathways towards connection through the activity of wild swimming. This offers an extension of previous work on pathways, and can be used by practitioners, individuals and researchers looking at increasing connection to the natural world.
Keywords: blue spaces, sea, wild swimming, nature connection, wellbeing

Alexia Barrable, PhD is a Lecturer at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Tanya Uhnger Wünsche, is pursuing a doctoral degree in pedagogical practices at Kristianstad University, Sweden.

Anna K. Touloumakos, PhD is an Assistant Professor at Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens, Greece.