Happiness goals countdown

Increasing the world’s happiness quotient

one resolution at a time

Happiness Goal #9: Spend Half an Hour a Day in Nature

Become a Happiness Champion. Join the Happiness Goals Countdown at LifeCoachHub.com.

Your goal today is as easy as a walk in the park. The natural world has happiness to offer. We just need to tune into it.

So set the goal to be in a natural outdoor setting for 30 minutes every day. You'll feel good in more ways than one when surrounded by nature, and the effects will be long-lasting.

Kaplan and Kaplan reported in their book The experience of nature: A psychological perspective that beauty in nature reduces stress and fatigue in daily life. In fact, "green odor", the smell emitted by green leaves, is associated with an increase in brain-derived neuotrophic factor, or BDNF, a protein that's protective of neurons under conditions of stress. Green odor has also been shown in a study by Shuji and colleagues to reduce pain and fatigue and another by Spiers and colleagues to reduce indicators of stress. So get out in nature, and smell the fresh grass and leaves; your stress levels will reduce!

And it's not just smelling nature than has an impact on happiness. Just looking at nature is more relaxing. Brain scan studies have shown that different parts of the brain are activated depending on whether a person is looking at urban or natural scenery, with natural views being associated with areas of greater emotional calm.

Walking in nature is more relaxing too. A 2013 study monitored the physical readings of walkers, who tracked when they were in urban settings versus green space. Green space was associated with lower frustration and arousal, and promoted mood enhancement. Alternatively, urban settings required more attention and thinking and were therefore more stressful. According to Roe, one of the study's researchers, nature created a "restorative effect" that lessened brain fatigue and produced "stress recovery." Responses like this enable greater happiness in people.

Similarly, Atchley and colleagues reported in 2012 that exposure to nature relaxes the brain. It goes into a "default mode" linked to "peak psychosocial health." In others words, people feel happier.

With the benefits of being outside in green spaces increasingly apparent, your goal to get outside will boost your happiness. Look for green spaces in your community. You could meet this goal by pulling in at a park on your way home from work. Happiness rises from small positive choices. The important part is to stop and smell the flowers!

Watch out for the final installment of the Happiness Goals Countdown ! You’ve learned a lot so far. Now it’s time to bring it all together!

Artist: Tom Roberts