Nature is all around us yet we rarely take the time to step back and appreciate it.
According to a new study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, it was discovered that tiny moments spent appreciating everyday nature can have many individual and social benefits.
Researchers separated participants into 3 groups. The first group was asked to take photos of objects from nature that caught their eye during the day, the second group was asked to take photos of objects that were man-made, and the third group acted as a control and wasn’t instructed to do anything.
Participants were asked to do this for two weeks and jot down what they were feeling after each photo was taken.
Once the study was completed, researchers found that individuals who were asked to photograph scenes from everyday nature reported more positive emotions, “elevating experiences,” and more feelings of connectedness to other people, to nature, and to life itself. Those in the nature condition also reported a more prosocial attitude than those in the other conditions.
The big takeaway of this study is that anyone can take the time to step back and appreciate the nature that surrounds them on a daily basis – and this can have a very positive impact on our happiness and well-being.
You don’t need to hike up a mountain, go camping, or go on vacation somewhere to spend more time with nature. Nature is everywhere.
Many of the observations people reported throughout the study included very simple things like seeing a tree from your kitchen window, a flower blooming on a sidewalk, or blades of grass unexpectedly emerging from train tracks.
Even from where I’m sitting right now, I can see trees through my window, birds perched on the branches, and my dog sitting across the room from me. These are all examples of “nature” that can be found right under our noses.
According to the main author of the study, Holli-Anne Passmore:
“This wasn’t about spending hours outdoors or going for long walks in the wilderness. This is about the tree at a bus stop in the middle of a city and the positive effect that one tree can have on people.”
While it’s true that living in greener cities has been shown to improve mental health and overall well-being, our attitude and perspective can be just as important for appreciating nature.
You don’t have to live around a lot of nature to be able to find it. Even in a dense urban environment, there is always something from nature to be found if we are being mindful and aware.
Look up at the sky and find a bird soaring above. Look down at your feet and find a little flower or patch of grass in the concrete. Look around and you’ll find a squirrel, rabbit, or even a mouse running somewhere.
These may not be typical examples of when we think about “spending time with nature,” but the point is that nature is never lurking far – there’s almost always something right in front of us if we are open to it.
No matter where you live, it’s important you find ways to spend time with nature and take a moment to appreciate it. Interesting research has even shown that watching nature documentaries can help boost many positive emotions like joy, amazement, awe, contentment, and curiosity.
It’s also worth noting that mindful photography has also been shown to enhance positive emotions, increase feelings of gratitude, and improve overall well-being.
Photography is a particularly good way to boost both mindfulness and appreciation, because it motivates you to pay more attention to your surroundings and identify things in your environment that actually bring you positivity and joy. Focusing these photography pursuits on “nature” rather than “man-made” objects might be a good way to amplify this positivity.
So how can you practice this in your own life? Here’s a small exercise:
Make it a goal to photograph at least 3-5 observations of “nature” that you discover throughout your daily routine. All you need is a small camera or mobile phone to bring along with you, and the intent to be more aware of your everyday surroundings. After each photograph, take a moment to reflect on the image and how it makes you feel.
It’s so simple, but little exercises like this can really help us to make the most out of life and maximize our happiness and well-being. Try it out for yourself and see how it works for you!
Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement: