Does Nature Make Us Happy

Posted on 2014/04/02

Links between happiness and natural world are of growing interest in the research on happiness, health, psychology, and economics more widely. Although there is not much evidence found on nature's positive effects on one's level of happiness but it is already proven with studies that green environments boost subjective wellbeing.

A primary research was conducted in UK to discover the relationship between an individual's momentary feelings of happiness and his immediate environment (George MacKerrona, Susana Mouratoc; 2013). The researchers developed an iPhone app to send signals to research participants. They were asked small questions at random moments while a GPS was used to determine their geographic locations. One million responses were collected over 20K participants. The results of the study revealed that research participants felt happier when outdoors than indoors while taking into account several factors i.e. weather, time of the day, companionship, and activity. The researchers later informed the results to UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) to give new insights in various areas of interest to representatives when making policies.

There are at least three ways to prove that natural environment relates to subjective wellbeing, feelings of happiness, and health. The first reason is that natural environment lessens our level of stress and reinstates our attention; hence has direct emotional impact on our nervous system. This kind of pathway is known as biophilia in environmental sciences. There is a plausible evolutionary explanation for it because we all have an inborn emotional attachment to nature and generally with all living organisms (Wilson, 1993). Second, environment ‘bads’ contain lower natural ecological factors and have undesirable influence on physical and mental wellbeing that sequentially affects happiness too. Such damaging environmental factors mainly include air and noise pollution. Chronic noise of traffic has adverse effects on human wellbeing because it increases stress levels, causes sleep disturbances, and makes people prone to heart disease and high blood pressure. It also causes birth defects and poor immunity in human beings who have prolonged exposure to it. The awareness of an environmental problem itself reduces happiness. Studies have proven that when people are well aware of air pollution, they are more concerned with taking objective measures to control it. So when individuals perceive air pollution they take another route for its reduction that in turn consumes much of their energies and affects their happiness. Third environmental factors can also boost one’s level of contentment because world of nature facilitates and encourages the circumstances that increase one’s happiness. Practically, physically and psychologically beneficial behaviors including friendships, exercise, and recreation all make us happy. 

 

 

 

Researchers have proven that there is a strong correlation between physical and mental wellbeing and natural environment. Richard Louv, the author of an award winning book ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder’ emphasizes that in the lives of our children, the lack of contact with nature is the reason of many of the childhood disorders. He further adds that illnesses like depression and obesity can be treated with encouraging today’s wired generation to interact more and more with nature. The American Institute of Research conducted a research in 2005 that demonstrates when children are taught in outdoor classrooms they perform better than the children taught indoors by 27%. This research supports the fact that outdoor education and outdoor extracurricular activities are crucial for the development of children and it is equally important for the future of our young generation. A good connection with nature helps our lives to be more sustainable and also inspires us to participate in environmental causes. So anytime you wish to feel good and happier, head into open-air, and look towards nature.