If It Makes You Happy
Author: Emily Donnelly
When was the last time you got outside and did something fun?
Statistics show that only one in ten children today play outdoors more often than indoors.
Ahead of National Tree Day for 2015, Planet Ark set out to find out what happens to our brain when it comes into contact with nature by commissioning an independent survey. In doing so, we uncovered some surprising facts about Australians and the effects our indoor lifestyle is having on our health.
The results of the survey have been published in Planet Ark's Needing Trees - The Nature of Happiness report, sponsored by Toyota. The report investigates how contact with nature affects people's life-long happiness and the physiological impacts it has on the brain.
Your Brain On Nature And Why It Makes Us Happy
- Spending time in nature has the ability to influence a person's happiness because it has direct effects on the brain and hormone secretion.
- Viewing nature activates areas of the brain linked with the dopamine reward system, triggering happiness-induced recall and feelings of wellness, whereas viewing urban scenes activates areas of the brain associated with anxiety, fear and unpleasantness.
- Nature reduces the body's response to stress, with cortical secretion and irregularity decreasing with the more green space a person is exposed to.
- Exposing children to environments that reduce stress and increase wellbeing has long-term effects on the structure of the brain and happiness later in life.
The Nature of Happiness
The report found that Australia's increasingly indoor lifestyle is setting a trajectory for a generation of unhappy kids that will take that unhappiness into adulthood, yet exposure to nature might have the answer. The results also found that children who engage in just one third more outdoor activities than their peers grow up to be happier adults.
Over the space of a single generation Australians have disconnected from nature, while at the same time there has been a rapid increase in levels of stress and depression, with depression-associated disability costing the Australian economy $14.9 billion a year.
Planet Ark's past research, combined with this year's findings that nature time generates happiness, suggests that Australian children are on track to grow into an unhappy generation disconnected from nature and living an indoor lifestyle.
Don't Worry, Be Happy
To reverse the trend, incorporating time in nature into the lives of Australian families can help to create generations of happy kids and adults.
Time in nature is a free and easy way to increase happiness and wellbeing in Australia, helping to reduce the economic burden of mental illness and create a better future for the next generation of Australians.
Planet Ark is encouraging everyone to incorporate more green into their offices, homes and schools and participate in a National Tree Day activity in their workplace, home or community to take steps for their own health and inspire others.