Cliche sayings like “stop and smell the roses” might irk some people. But as it turns out, that one in particular might be so popular and oft-repeated because it’s true.
A new study out of the University of British Columbia has shown that paying more attention to nature, even in a crowded urban centre, can actually increase your happiness.
The study was conducted by Holli-Anne Passmore, a psychology PhD candidate at UBC Okanagan, and it looked at the connection between personal well being and attention paid to nature.
She asked participants to take part in a two week intervention where they took photos of natural objects that attracted their attention and wrote a little blurb about how it made them feel. People noted things like the clouds in the sky, the green poking through the cracks in the sidewalk; anything that wasn’t manmade, basically.
"This wasn't about spending hours outdoors or going for long walks in the wilderness," Passmore said in a statement. "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."
Another group did the same, but with man-made objects, and a third didn’t take photos of anything at all. She received over 2,500 photos from her 395 participants, and was shocked at the impact that noticing the natural objects had on their personal well-being.
The study was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.