In the spirit of those stuffy term papers we all had to write in college, let me open by throwing some impressive (if not entirely pleasant) facts at you.
Did you know that by the year 2050, an estimated 66% of the global population will live in cities?
And did you also know that people living in urban environments are actually at a higher risk of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, psychosis and addictive disorders?
But it’s not all bad news!
According to a study published Tuesday in the journal “Bioscience,” you may not even have to leave the city you’ve grown so fond of (a fondness cultivated by a blissfully short five-minute commute to the office, no doubt) to reap the sweet, sweet benefits of being in nature.
Even a Little Bit of Nature is Better Than No Nature
The big takeaway from the study was this: Being exposed to even limited amounts of nature (including trees, birdsong or simply just the sky) can have lasting beneficial effects on mental well-being.
To help them collect their data, the researchers behind the study created a smartphone app called Urban Mind. (You can find out more about the app here, but it looks like the program is closed until the next phase of the study, taking place in Spring of 2018.)
Over the course of a week, self-selected participants were prompted seven times a day to answer questions relating to their whereabouts, surroundings and overall emotional well-being. The questions ranged from the general “Are you indoors or outdoors?” to the more specific “Can you see or hear water?”
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that participants were more likely to report better well-being when they were outside or exposed to nature in any capacity. (Although seeing and hearing water didn’t seem to do much to boost moods.)
The positive effects that were reported often carried over throughout the day, lasting as much as two hours and 25 minutes beyond the experience of seeing trees or the sky. After people came into contact with nature, the effects could last almost five hours.
Five hours of happiness just for touching some leaves? Be right back, running outside to hug a tree.
While the methodology and results of this study were admittedly not perfect, the researchers still suggest that natural features, even incorporated into a man-made environment, can help boost a person’s overall mood.
How to Get Hold of Some Nature In Your City
If you’re feeling blue because your walk to work is just a little… gray, try taking a few minutes to look up at the sky, stare at a window box full of fresh blooms or take in the rustling of the leaves on the tree over the bus bench.
If you need some more hard-core nature in your life, consider making time to head just outside the city limits for a walk, hike or bike through nature.
Still not satisfied? Head to one of our country’s National Parks to take advantage of one of the free park entrance days offered in 2018 and take in some ~real~ nature.
However you choose to take it in, be sure to spend a few minutes here and there enjoying the nature around you — it might just have a lasting effect on your day.
Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
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