Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


First Advisor

Julia C. Torquati

Date of this Version

Summer 5-30-2017

Document Type



Huynh, Tuyen N., "Understanding the roles of connection to nature, mindfulness, and distress on psychological well-being" (2017). Public Access Theses and Dissertations from the College of Education and Human Sciences.

Copyright (c) 2017 Tuyen Huynh


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Child, Youth and Family Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Julia C. Torquati. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2017

Copyright © 2017 Tuyen N. Huynh


A plethora of research has documented the negative effects of distress on physical and psychological well-being. However, past research showed that connection to nature and mindfulness reduce distress and improve psychological well-being. Unfortunately, the processes through which mindfulness is associated to connection to nature during the recovery from distress is unknown. Understanding the aspects of how connection to nature and mindfulness independently and jointly relate to well-being increases our existing knowledge of the health benefits associated with these constructs. Therefore, the current study had three foci: (1) the relationships between connection to nature (CN), mindfulness, and distress to psychological well-being (PWB) such as depression, anxiety, positive states of mind, and life satisfaction; (2) the moderating effects of connection to nature and mindfulness on the association between distress and PWB; and (3) the mediating effects of mindfulness on the relation between CN and PWB and distress. Participants (N=276; n= 37 males, n=239 females) were undergraduate (n=273) and graduate (n=3) students from a Midwestern university. Results indicated that CN was negatively associated with distress and depression. In addition, mindful attention, mindful awareness, and mindful acceptance were positively associated with life satisfaction and positive states of mind and inversely associated with depression and distress. All mindfulness measures except mindful awareness were inversely associated with anxiety. Furthermore, mindful awareness fully mediated the associations between CN and depression and distress. Mindful attention also fully mediated the CN-distress association. Buffering effects against the negative outcomes of distress were found in the moderation analyses. That is, mindful acceptance moderated the association between distress and PWB (depression and life satisfaction). More specifically, despite having increased distress, those with higher mindful acceptance had lower levels of depression and higher levels of life satisfaction. Lastly, CN did not moderate the association between distress and PWB. Limitations of this study and future direction for research are discussed.

Advisor: Julia C. Torquati