Even in the city or indoors, noticing nature increases general happiness and well-being, according to research.
It’s no secret that Mother Nature has all kinds of feel-good mojo to offer, with a lot of research backing it up beyond what most of us instinctively know. Which is wonderful for those with woodlands at hand or a beach within reach, but what about us poor city slickers?
As it turns out, even those of us living in the urban hubbub can take advantage of nature’s glee-giving generosity – all we have to do is take a little time to, basically, stop and smell the roses.University of British Columbia (UBC) researcher Holli-Anne Passmore says if people simply take time to ponder the nature around them, it will increase their general happiness and well-being.
Passmore, from UBC’s Okanagan campus, published research looking at the connection between observing nature and personal well-being. The conclusions are encouraging.
The study had one group of people document how bits of nature in their day-to-day made them feel. And the definition of nature was generous – anything not human-built, a houseplant, a dandelion growing in a crack in a sidewalk, birds, or sun through a window, explains Passmore. The subjects took a photo of the item that caught their eye and write a short note about how it made them feel.
Another group in the study did the same with human-made objects; a control group did neither. In total, there were 395 participants.
Passmore, whose academic field is wellness, found not only the more than 2,500 photos and descriptions of emotions submitted “overwhelming,” but also that the simple act of observing emotional responses to nearby nature had such an impact on personal well-being.
“The difference in participants’ well-being – their happiness, sense of elevation, and their level of connectedness to other people, not just nature – was significantly higher than participants in the group noticing how human-built objects made them feel and the control group,” Passmore says.
“This wasn’t about spending hours outdoors or going for long walks in the wilderness,” she adds. “This is about the tree at a bus stop in the middle of a city and the positive effect that one tree can have on people.”
So if you can, go ahead and do your forest bathing ... but if all you have is a dandelion in a sidewalk crack, look at it, think about how it makes you feel and don't be surprised if you notice your spirits lift.
The study was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.