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An Appreciation for the Nature Around You Contributes to Your Well-Being


Have you taken a moment to step back from the daily inertia to “smell the roses”?

The day to day in big cities is full of movement and speed. Going from one side of town to another, all the time looking at a cell phone, and paradoxically, all of this has provoked a feeling that we live in a state of constant disconnectedness. Even the busiest metropolis has a small park or a garden, and there we can rest our eyes and recover some connection with our more natural being.

Such intuition, which may seem obvious to some and corny to someone else, is now backed by a growing body of empirical evidence thanks to research by the “Happy Team”, the Psychology Department at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. The team is led by student Holli-Anne Passmore, whose mission is to measure the emotional impact experienced by people in their day to day lives, and to contribute to their well-being.

In their most recent experiment, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, the Happy Team worked with a group of 395 participants. Each was given a simple mission: take a moment during each day, over two weeks, to appreciate the nature surrounding you. This includes anything not manufactured by people, like a flower in the middle of the sidewalk, birds, rain or a sunset. In turn, another group took note of their own states of mind when interacting with man-made objects. A third control group didn’t take note of anything.

Passmore explained, “This wasn’t about spending hours outdoors or going for long walks in the wilderness. 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.”

Participation surprised even the team. Through 2,500 images and descriptions collected in the course of the study, the team documented that the perceived emotional well-being in the group stimulated a prosocial orientation and a willingness to share natural resources which were valued as though with new eyes. This stood in contrast to those who documented interactions with industrially produced objects.

The study is but one of several projects undertaken by the Happy Team to raise awareness of the impact of contact with nature, especially in urban environments, and to contribute to the well-being of city inhabitants.

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