Guaranteed happiness: spend more time in nature!

From infancy we concentrate happily on ourselves and other organisms. We learn to distinguish life from the inanimate and move toward it like moths to a porch light… To explore and affiliate with life is a deep and complicated process in mental development. To an extent still undervalued in philosophy and religion, our existence depends on this propensity, our spirit is woven from it, hope rises on its currents. — E.O. Wilson 1984, “Biophilia”

Have you ever wondered why humans keep plants and animals in their home? Animals for company and plants for interior design?

According to the biophilia hypothesis that was first formulated by Erich Fromm in 1974 in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, humans are naturally attracted to all living things including other humans, animals and plants.

The term was later popularized in 1984 by Edward O. Wilson in Biophilia where he talks about a human “urge to affiliate with other forms of life,” which was then validated through a series of scientific experiments.

With data collected from a hospital setting, Roger Ulrich, professor of Healthcare Facility Design at Texas A&M University (TAMU), concluded that patients whose room had a window with a view of trees and natural landscapes experienced less pain and had a shorter stay in the hospital than patients who had a view of a brick wall, despite belonging to similar age groups, having similar health conditions and undergoing the same surgery.

Additionally, numerous lab studies by Ulrich and his colleagues at TAMU confirmed the previous study’s finding and further assessed that natural scenes led patients to recover faster and more positively than urban scenes.

More benefits include:

  1. Improved short-term memory: Several studies show that nature walks have memory-promoting effects that don’t happen in urban spaces (Berman, Jonides & Kaplan, 2008)
  2. Stress reduction and rapid mood enhancement: Green scenes, water and bird sounds are relaxing in themselves but also trees and plants emit an organic compound called phytoncides. These are airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects, which lower our pulse rate, blood pressure as well as the release of stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline (Ulrich et al, 1991)
  3. Eliminate fatigue: Mental energy bounces back after spending time in nature or looking at it (Berman, Jonides & Kaplan, 2008)
  4. Help fight depression and anxiety: 90% of people in a group suffering from depression felt a higher sense of self-esteem after walking in nature, while almost 75% felt lower levels of depression (Barton & Pretty, 2010)
  5. Help our ability to focus: Spending time in nature or simply looking at it gives our brain the cognitive portion of our brain a break from the straining activities that make up our daily life (Taylor & Kuo, 2009)
  6. Increased creativity: Nature is beautiful and gives us new resources to build upon that we cannot find elsewhere in our lives (Berman, Jonides & Kaplan, 2008)
  7. Boost our immune system: Phytoncides also help increase our blood cells, which kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies (Li, 2010)

Furthermore, studies show that contact with nature can be purely visual: a green view form a window; multi-sensory: lying on the grass and looking at vegetation while hearing birds singing; active: hiking, gardening, fishing; or passive such as sitting in a park and looking at the flowers around ourselves.

All good, but what does it really mean?

It means that contact with nature and animals is a universal basic human need. It is beneficial to every human being, regardless of race, culture, religion or gender. It is not an individual preference. Just as a healthy diet and meditation help us flourish, we need ongoing connections with the natural world.

Nature doesn’t need us, but we need nature. This is not new to the Japanese who have a custom of taking “forest baths,” a break to walk in the woods.

Nature is beautiful and humans, some 200,000 years ago, used to live in it. They explored it every day in their quest for food and shelter. They moved around, always discovering new aspects of life that surrounded them. Large trees provided shelter while their limbs were used to keep fire alive and their fruits provided food. The sun provided the necessary warmth and light served as an indication of the time of day. Rivers were points that were used for, you guessed it, drinking, fishing, and bathing.

In the modern world, unless you have a job as a gardener or forester, you most likely spend most of your days indoors. After we wake up and get ready in the morning, we climb into our cars, buses, subways and streetcars to get to our offices where we sit for 8 hours a day or more, only to return home in those same cars, buses, subways and streetcars, to later plop onto our couches, exhausted after a long day’s work… and we forget that being connected to nature is essential to our wellbeing.

So, here we have made a list of fun activities for your free time that can help you reconnect with nature and make you feel sustainably happier:

  • Jogging
  • Hiking
  • Going to a pack
  • Going to a lake/sea
  • Fishing
  • Nature drawing/colour painting
  • Horse riding
  • Gardening
  • Camping
  • Yoga in the park
  • Outside meditation
  • Reading in a park
  • Biking
  • Kiting
  • Going fruit picking
  • Golfing
  • Putt putting
  • Playing frisbee
  • Taking photos of nature

Also, just keeping plants in your office and in your home can help you feel better. Don’t believe us? Check out this study from Virginia Lohr at Washington State University. Plus, it’s pretty! Also, whenever you have the choice, always choose the green view to the urban scene!

Because every little step that you achieve today — big or small — matters. Doesn’t everyone deserve to be happy and successful? You hold it all in your hand. You can make a difference with every action you take.

Join our mission… let’s make the world a happier place!

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