Woodlands can help to reduce worry and stress while mountains and hills leave you feeling more optimistic, according to new academic research.
A pioneering experiment immersed more than 1,000 participants in different natural environments and monitored their emotional responses.
The volunteers had a number of psychometric tests before and after being exposed to scenes such as meadows, mountains, waterfalls and urban environments.
Contributors also had to rate their stress and wellbeing levels before and after being immersed in the natural environment.
The study, led by i2 media research at Goldsmiths University of London on behalf of plant powered snack brand, ZENB Veggie Bites, found water was the most effective at increasing positive emotions, such as happiness and inspiration.
In total, 68 per cent reported that they felt an increase in happiness and 52 per cent felt inspired after watching scenes of water environments.
Waterfalls were the most effective at boosting creativity and determination, while meadows and fields were most likely to enhance energy and trigger excitement.
Seas, lakes and rivers were associated with the highest percentage change (47 per cent) across participants’ perceived abilities to perform cognitive tasks after being immersed in the environment.
The study showed how nature can also provide a tonic for those working from home, helping ease feelings of burnout for 47 per cent of participants.
More than a quarter (28 per cent) felt more productive, and a further 47 per cent said it gave them a sense of perspective they needed.
Meanwhile, the research highlighted how woodlands can have the most restorative effects on people’s thoughts.
Almost six in 10 (59 per cent) participants admitted the environment helped them forget their worries and 46 per cent said it helped give them clearer thoughts – more than any other environment.
And fields and meadows increase feelings of excitement and can lead to a boost in energy levels.
Anna Stewart, from the i2 media research lab at Goldsmiths University of London said: “This research is a step towards understanding the link between nature and specific mood states.
“The findings show that water environments are linked more frequently to significant changes in mood when compared to urban settings, demonstrating the power of more awe-inspiring settings like waterfalls, seas and lakes for improving mood and decreasing negative emotions.
“These settings were rated as more attractive and more novel by our sample, suggesting that if you’re looking for a mood boost, it’s best to choose an environment that you like, but that you don’t get to see or visit very often as this should have the most positive effects on your mood.”
The scientific research, created in conjunction with ZENB Veggie Bites, was backed up by a separate survey of 2,000 adults exploring attitudes towards the outdoors on emotional states.
It found the average Brit deliberately goes into nature to de-stress, relax or unwind just five times a month.
And three-quarters agree that getting out into nature has been ‘more important than ever’ for their physical and mental wellbeing in 2020.
Six in 10 said being in nature helps reduce their stress, while 34 per cent believe it helps them to stop overthinking.
A fifth of the UK adults polled via OnePoll even said getting out into nature can help reduce their anger levels.
Inspired by the findings, ZENB has launched a new podcast series ‘Bites of Nature’ hosted by Jasmine Hemsley.
The five-part series draws on Jasmine’s and her guest’s personal experiences of the great outdoors, featuring TV presenter AJ Odudu, botanist and TV star James Wong and more.
Each bite-sized podcast features a bespoke meditation created by Jasmine to transport listeners to the natural environment each episode is themed around.
Dominic Melliss, MD of ZENB UK, added: “The last six months has been challenging for a lot of people but one thing our research has revealed is the power of nature to alter our moods.
“A fifth of people said that they felt less anxious after spending just thirty minutes or less in nature, showing how just small ‘snackable’ amounts can have a big impact.
“We hope our new ‘Bites of Nature’ podcast will encourage people to get into the great outdoors, even if they only have five minutes.”
HOW DIFFERENT AREAS OF NATURE CAN AFFECT MENTAL WELLBEING
BODIES OF WATER: Increase happiness and inspiration.
WATERFALLS: Boost creativity and determination.
WOODLANDS: Help forget worries, clear thoughts, and reduce stress.
MOUNTAINS AND HILLS: Increase feelings of optimism.
MEADOWS AND FIELDS: Enhance energy levels and stir up feelings of excitement.
The ZENB Bites of Nature podcast can be found on the ZENB website at https://zenb.co.uk/pages/podcasts and is available on all usual platforms.