Internationally agreed sustainability goals are being missed. Here, we conduct global meta-analyses to assess how the extent to which humans see themselves as part of nature—known as human–nature connectedness (HNC)—can be used as a leverage point to reach sustainability. A meta-analysis of 147 correlational studies shows that individuals with high HNC had more pronature behaviours and were significantly healthier than those with low HNC. A meta-analysis of 59 experimental studies shows significant increases in HNC after manipulations involving contact with nature and mindfulness practices. Surprisingly, this same meta-analysis finds no significant effect of environmental education on HNC. Thus, HNC is positively linked to mind-sets that value sustainability and behaviours that enhance it. Further, we argue that HNC can be enhanced by targeted practices, and we identify those most likely to succeed. Our results suggest that enhancing HNC, via promotion of targeted practices, can improve sustainability and should be integrated into conservation policy.