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How nature can make you happier – without going outside

You don't have to go outside to experience the mood-boosting benefits of nature

Split screen photo of a singing bird, a laptop and two elephants
Melanie Macleod
Melanie MacleodWellness Editor
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Did you know that you can lift your mood by spending just a few minutes a day listening to birdsong? Or that walking barefoot on the ground can help you sleep better, improve your health and boost your happiness? Adding one or two simple nature-full tweaks to your daily routine has been scientifically proven to work wonders for your happiness, strength of mind and general wellbeing.

A study by the American National Library of Medicine found that spending just 20 minutes per day in the sunshine can improve your mood and quality of sleep significantly. How? It’s mostly down to the happy hormones nature helps us produce - and the negative ones it reduces.

Time spent in nature sparks a series of happy reactions inside us, reducing our cortisol (stress) levels, increasing our levels of serotonin (the happiness hormone), and it can even cause us to produce the love hormone oxytocin (which is great if you’re feeling lonely).

Beautiful young black girl smiling against blossom spring trees outdoors.© Getty
Being in nature is proven to make us happier

While we'd all love to spend 20 minutes a day basking in the great outdoors, sometimes it's just not possible. Whether it's a busy work day, a frantic evening spent ferrying the kids around, or the weather isn't playing ball, some days you simply can't make the time to spend time in nature.

But we have good news. An international study conducted by Professor Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, revealed that even watching a short clip of a nature show leads to significant increases in positive emotions including awe, contentedness, joy and amusement.

 RELATED: A neurological injury left me depressed and disabled: how birding helped me

Collaborating with BBC Worldwide, the study asked over 7,500 participants from the US, UK, Singapore, India, South Africa and Australia to complete a short survey to establish their mood state before being shown clips from the BBC’s Planet Earth II series. Professor Keltner's study also found those watching had substantial decreases in emotions such as nervousness, anxiety and fear.

So, with that in mind, here are three easy ways to embrace the happiness-boosting power of nature, without stepping foot outside your front door.

 MORE ON NATURE: How morning sunlight cured my chronic anxiety

How nature can make you happier - without going outside

1. Listen to a nature playlist

You don't have to listen to spa-inspired whale song music (though by all means, do that if it's your thing!), but Spotify has some seriously cheerful birdsong playlists that are way more fun than they sound. And studies have found that even if you’re listening to birdsong through your headphones, any feelings of anxiety, depression and paranoia can be improved massively.

Simply search birdsong and flick through until you find the one for you. Not only will it make you feel uplifted, we find it's better for our concentration levels than pop songs or radio DJ chat.

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2. Switch your screensaver

If you're anything like us, the background on your computer is probably a default one that came preloaded, but changing your home screen background to a picture of somewhere beautiful in nature is an easy swap that will help with your happiness.

laptop outside on the grass with a sunflower screensaver© Getty
Changing our screensaver can make us happier

3. Bring the daylight in

“There's a huge number of well-known and well-researched health benefits to being outside in natural light,” says Dr Kelli Ritter, a Quantum Health Specialist, who strongly believes in the power of absorbing daylight to help set the tone and mood for the day.

"But if you can’t get out then crack that window, open a door - just absorb the light, even if it’s cloudy and dreary, Try it, it makes a huge difference."

READ: Do you need an awe break? The happiness boosting activity we can all try

4. Attend a virtual safari

Many of us fantasize about heading to the African planes to immerse ourselves in wildlife, but too few of us make it further than the dreaming stage. However, WildEarth have made it that bit easier, with the launch of their incredible new nature channel, which you can watch on Freeview on Channel 91, which offers live broadcasts from safaris, so you can watch animal adventures in real-time, from the comfort of your home. 

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