KELOWNA, British Columbia — Stopping to smell the roses every day might just be the best kind of free therapy around. Even the shortest of nature breaks can do wonders for your happiness and overall well-being, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada recruited 395 individuals to participate in a study on how even the most ephemeral of experiences with nature could improve health outcomes.
Participants were split into three groups. One group was asked to photograph and document observations on natural surroundings over a two-week period, while another group was tasked with doing the same for manmade objects. A control group was told to do neither.
Those assigned to the two test groups were instructed to snap photos of any relevant items they found interesting during their daily routines, and subsequently write down any related feelings.
“This wasn’t about spending hours outdoors or going for long walks in the wilderness,” explains researcher Holli-Anne Passmore in a media release. “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.”
In all, more than 2,500 photos and descriptions were submitted by participants, providing evidence of how invested they felt in the experiment.
Previous research has found that people who live in nature-filled areas tend to seem happier and live longer, although the former claim has been harder to substantiate.
While Passmore and her team didn’t necessarily use the most empirical of metrics to evaluate one’s level of satisfaction from simply noticing nature, there is certainly little harm done by taking a minute to literally stop and smell the roses.
Overall, “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,” she notes.
The research team’s full findings were published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.