Study: Nature Not Only Boosts Happiness, It Makes One Kinder

According to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, time spent outdoors can inspire one to become more trusting, generous, and helpful toward others.

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Positive news for nature lovers! If you’re drawn to explore the mountains or spend time on the plains, are intrigued by the mystery of the ocean or just can’t help but bask in the sun when it’s out, your likely to be a much happier, healthier, and kinder person than most others.

According to information unearthed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, time spent outdoors can inspire one to become more trusting, generous, and helpful toward others.

The series of experiments, which were published in 2014, studied the potential impact of nature on the willingness to display traits marked as kind. Researchers also took into consideration other factors which might influence that relationship.

Participants were exposed to more or less subjectively beautiful nature scenes (whose beauty levels were rated independently) and then observed how participants behaved playing two economics games – The Dictator Game and the Trust Game. Both measure generosity and trust, respectively.

After being exposed to the more beautiful nature scenes, participants acted more generously and with more trust in the games than those who saw less beautiful scenes. Reportedly, the effects appeared to be due to corresponding increases in positive emotion.

YesMagazine relays that in another part of the study, researchers asked the participants to fill out a survey about their emotions while sitting at a table where ‘beautiful’ plants were placed. Afterwards, the people taking part in the study were told that the experiment was over and they could leave, but that if they wanted to, they could volunteer to make paper cranes for a relief effort program in Japan. The researchers used the number of cranes they made (or didn’t make) as a measure of their “prosociality” or willingness to help.

Again, results showed that the presence of more beautiful plants significantly increased the number of cranes made by participants and that the increase was similarly mediated by positive emotion elicited by natural beauty. 

The researchers concluded that experiencing the beauty of nature increases positive emotion – perhaps by inspiring awe, infatuation with something greater than oneself – which then leads to prosocial behavior.

As David Strayer, of the University of Utah, states:

“People have been discussing their profound experiences in nature for the last several hundred years—from Thoreau to John Muir to many other writers. Now we are seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest we are physically and mentally more healthy when we are interacting with nature.”

This study is just one more affirmation that being in nature – not indoors and online most of the day – is beneficial to one’s health and good mood.

What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!


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