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Interconnectedness over Isolation:
Well-Being Strengthened by Interdependencies

Social Network Interconnectedness

Sustainability research highlights the importance of interconnectedness or interdependencies in order to bring about all-inclusive aims (see Theory & Definition).
Sustainable Well-Being aspires to all-inclusive increases in well-being that are strengthened by interconnectedness.
However, well-being theories and to a great extent our pursuit of well-being currently hold the individual rather isolated, detached from others and nature. In effect, this can reinforce alienation of others and exploitation of nature.
Therefore the following section will discuss:

  • How individuals' well-being is interconnected with both others and nature.
  • How both well-being theories and our pursuit of well-being currently are isolated and detached from others and nature.
  • How more attention to interconnectedness can enhance lasting well-being.
  • Interconnectedness with Other People

  • Interconnectedness with Nature

Research demonstrates the importance for individuals’ well-being to feel autonomy and independence. For example, in existing well-being theories, the main focus is on self-actualisation, self-development, self-absorption and self-involved satisfaction and emotions (see Kjell, 2011 for more information). Even though this is very important for individuals’ well-being, research also illustrates the importance of a sense of belonging and relatedness to others for individuals’ well-being. Therefore Sustainable Well-Being encourages a sense of interconnectedness with others; for example see our Gratitude Notes or Social Network Intervention. You can also join the discussion, and see comments and photos from those who have tried them out here or on our Facebook page.

This tension between self and others is important to understand. Therefore theories relating to individuals’ interconnectedness with others are introduced below.

An Evolutionary Perspective

A recent evolutionary perspective can explain the current individualistic focus within psychology and well-being research whilst also highlighting the need for a more balanced perspective. The consensus within theories on evolution in the 1960s stated that natural selection was not strong enough to be considered on a group level. It was then strongly held that research should focus only on the individual level, which resulted in the current individualistic emphasis (Wilson, Van Vugt & O'Gorman, 2008).

However, with enhanced understanding of natural selection this view has now changed. According to the Multilevel Selection Theory (Wilson, Van Vugt & O'Gorman, 2008), natural selection is now demonstrated to act between both individuals and groups.

Thus the view of humans as rationally self-interested beings who are self-absorbed in their subjectively created aspirations and ambitions should now be re-evaluated, incorporating a more holistic perspective of humans and their innate desire to belong to a social and natural environment. Certainly, this includes humans’ inclinations for morality, altruism and of course cooperation.


A Cross-Cultural Perspective

Investigations of cross-cultural differences can further inform the importance of an adaptive balance between focusing on the individual and the group (Ng, Ho, Wong & Smith, 2003). Research demonstrates that to manage the complexity of various demands within societies involves elements associated with both individualism and collectivism.

  • Cultures that overemphasise individualism encourage individuals who strive to be autonomous and self-determined. As a result they tend to become disconnected with those around them.
  • Cultures that overemphasise collectivism encourage individuals to be too interconnected with others. As a result they tend to neglect themselves.

Hence both situations can inhibit the pursuit of well-being. To fully enjoy well-being requires an adaptive balance allowing individuals to attend to both oneself and others.

We have to define our pursuit of happiness in relation to society and others.

In order to do this it is important that we continuously discuss how we live our lives and how we pursue happiness. Please share your opinions in our ongoing discussion!

Human physical needs such as materials, food and water are satisfied by and obtained from nature. So nature is today primarily valued as a commodity. However recent experimental research also demonstrates the importance of nature for human psychological well-being (Bowler, Buyung-Ali, Knight & Pullin, 2010). Therefore, researchers now urge nature to be seen with intrinsic values for human well-being.

Nature is both an important commodity and essential for human psychological well-being.

However,  in the same way that well-being theories are detached from other people, they also tend to be detached from nature. That is, current well-being theories emphasise the importance for individuals to feel in control of and satisfied by their environment. They are less concerned with individuals being in harmony with the environment and feeling feeling at one with nature. Therefore, Sustainable Well-Being encourages a sense of interconnectedness with nature; for example see our “Reuse Water Bottle Labels“. You can also join the discussion, and see comments and photos from those who have tried them out here or on our Facebook page.  

This tension between self and nature is also important to understand. Therefore theories relating to individuals’ interconnectedness with nature are introduced below.

Caring for Nature Interconnectedness

An Evolutionary Perspective

The biophilia hypothesis emphasizes the role of nature in human development and E. O. Wilson (1984)describes it as a genetically based affiliation with nature. From an evolutionary perspective, the vast amount of time that humans have lived intimately with nature is believed to have had an impact on our way of experiencing it. Therefore, biophilia is seen to be manifested in the whole individual, for example through emotions, cognitions and behaviours.

Even though the hypothesis makes great evolutionary sense, more research is needed in order to fully support and understand it. However, it is argued that this perspective is of importance in terms of human well-being as well as in terms of sparing our natural resources. Especially see our “Reuse Water Bottle Labels.

A Cross-Cultural Perspective

There is research arguing that similar to the interdependent self, an ecological self is important (Bragg, 1996). This involves a broadening of our perceptions – a more interconnected view of our self and nature. In this way nature can be considered both a commodity and also a meaningful and inspiring resource. Importantly this could also appeal to our ethical sensitivities. Extending our self towards nature might make us feel good about ourselves thanks to our capability to adapt to nature and maintain harmony with the environment; rather than our determination to alter nature to express ourselves.

It is certainly beneficial to define our pursuit of happiness in relation to nature.

In order to do this it is important that we continuously discuss how we live our lives and how we can align our pursuit of happiness with nature’s capabilities. Thus, please share your ideas and comments in the ongoing discussion.