Study: The Key to Happiness Is Two Hours a Week in Nature

(Chris Marshall/CNS)

(CN) – In a study published Thursday, researchers say spending just two hours in nature each week can have a noticeable positive impact on health and well-being.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports and led by the University of Exeter, was conducted by collecting observational data from roughly 20,000 people in England. Researchers sought to monitor and understand the relationship between the overall well-being of a given individual and their weekly exposure to nature.

The team of researchers, led by Matthew White of the University of Exeter Medical School, discovered that those who reported spending at least two hours a week in nature were far more likely to report higher levels of satisfaction with their general health and wellness. Those who spent less than two hours in nature each week, however, did not report any extra benefits to their health.

The study found that what kind of nature one chose to spend time in was virtually irrelevant. Researchers found that a person’s health could be enhanced by spending time in neighborhood common areas, outdoor parks, beaches or natural walking trails. Provided that the time was spent in a natural setting, well-being would be improved.

The study suggests that the two-hour benchmark for time spent in nature does not have to be met in any particular manner. The two hours could be accomplished in one large sitting or several smaller sittings spread throughout the week. Researchers found that as long as the total time spent in nature equals two hours or more by the end of the week, the health benefits would be experienced.

Researchers also found that this enhancement to health and well-being is not restricted to just a handful of demographics. The study determined that this weekly time in nature could positively impact people of all ages, faiths and ethnicities. Everybody, even those with low economic standing or fragile health, could find their wellness drastically improved if they reach this two-hour goal.

In an email, White said he hopes his research helps start the establishment of guidelines for how people interact with nature and wants to see more studies done.

“What we also really need are longitudinal cohort studies where we see what happens to people’s health over time as a function of changing amount of time in nature,” White said.

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