Time in nature is the most preferred spiritual practice of Australians

Australian Community Survey 2021

Whether or not they have used them, Australians were asked which spiritual practices appeal to them most, in the 2021 Australian Community Survey.

The top preference, selected by 52% of respondents was spending time in nature or the outdoors. This was followed by other preferred practices including listening to music, and prayer, meditation or mindfulness.   


Australians’ preference for time outdoors

It's anecdotally recognised that many Australians love the outdoor lifestyle and tourism campaigns often rest on the attraction and natural beauty of our landscapes. Yet, what can we say about whether Australians experience being outdoors or in nature as a spiritual act?

When provided with a list of choices of spiritual practices, and asked which appeal to them most, just over half of Australians (52%) selected being in nature or the outdoors as their top preference of spiritual practices.

These results are from the 2021 Australian Community Survey, by NCLS research, held in November 2021, a year impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic and its related lockdowns and social distancing restrictions. A similar result, of nature being the practice of most appeal, was found in the previous year (2020 ACS), a time also impacted by the pandemic.

This suggests that being outside in natural surroundings connects many Australians to a sense of spirituality. Recently highlighted during COVID lockdowns, was the priority given to spending some time each day exercising or in recreation activities outdoors, as an effective way to support wellbeing.

These research findings may reinforce and perhaps deepen the significance of spending time in nature, as a practice that not only supports wellbeing, but also lifts one's spirits or connects Australians to a deeper sense of their personal spirituality.



Listening to music lifts spirits

The second preference of Australians in their choice of spiritual practices, is listening to music that move them or lifts their spirits, selected by just under half (49%) of survey respondents.

Prayer, meditation or mindfulness

The third preference of Australians in selecting spiritual practices of appeal, was prayer, meditation or mindfulness practices, selected by around a third of Australians (32%).

Other more structured religious activities such as attending religious services was selected by 18% of Australians surveyed, followed by religious or spiritual reading, selected by 16% of respondents.

Spiritual practice in times of crisis

These results show the proportions of Australians that find appeal in certain spiritual practices. Yet, are these practices actually being drawn on by Australians? How important are they to Australians in times of crisis?

More information about the significance of spiritual practices in times of crisis, and Australians' use of them, can be found in our article 'Spiritual practices valued by Australians in times of crisis'.

Kathy Jacka
Data Sources:

2021 Australian Community Survey run by NCLS Research, November 2021 (n = 1,286).

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