Just a few minutes spent in nature can improve your mood

Have you ever found yourself stuck inside, maybe working a long day in a cubicle, and just feeling your mood get lower and lower as the day progresses? I know I’ve been there before.

But according to a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology in 2018, there’s a natural prescription for boosting your mood.

You probably don’t need a scientist to tell you that spending a little bit of time outside, whether it’s walking through a park or going for a big hike, makes you feel pretty good about yourself.

But this study, conducted by researchers Calum Neill, Janelle Gerard, and Katherine D. Arbuthnott, seems to indicate that even just a few minutes outside can really improve your mood.

The researchers initially selected a group of 123 college students for their study. One group of participants were asked to sit in an urban park for only 5 minutes. The other group sat in a windowless laboratory. Those who sat in the park showed significant improvements in their mood.

Researchers were curious to know if more time spent outside would yield even better results. For a second study, 70 students were selected for a 15-minute study. One group sat in an urban park for 15 minutes, the other sat in a laboratory for 15 minutes.

Interestingly enough, the students who sat outside for 15 did not see improved results than the 5 minute group.

“There are two important take-homes. The first I emphasize to all my students these days — when you need an emotional boost, the fastest and easiest way is to spend a few minutes with nature. Actually being outside is the best, but even contemplating a picture of a natural scene will make a difference,” Arbuthnott, the study’s author, said in an interview with PsyPost.

“The second is that, since contact with nature is so beneficial to our emotional health, preserving our local natural spaces is an important public health goal.”

These two studies do answer a few questions, but they also prompt one to ask even more.

Does time in nature impact older people and younger people in the same way?

Would time spent in a wilderness area have a bigger impact than time spent in a city park?

The researchers hope to see additional studies that examine longer exposure time, exposure to different types of natural environments, and more comprehensive analysis of how long the mood improvements from nature exposure last.

One thing’s for sure: this research makes me really want to get outside and enjoy my neighborhood park.

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