Watching nature documentaries boosts wellbeing, study finds

Katie Hoare
By Katie Hoare,
updated on Oct 15, 2020

Watching nature documentaries boosts wellbeing, study finds

It’s no surprise that spending time in nature is good for us, and even better when we exercise in a natural setting. But what happens when we’re limited by our access to the natural world?

Luckily for us, there are other ways to get our nature fix. The latest study from the University of Exeter says that watching nature documentaries significantly boosts mood and wellbeing, reduces feelings of sadness and alleviates negative feelings of boredom associated with isolation and lockdown.

Consisting of 96 participants, research leads induced feelings of boredom to the participants under laboratory conditions, then introduced scenes of an underwater coral reef through three different means: on the television, through a virtual reality (VR) headset using 360-degree video, and with a VR headset using computer-generated interactive graphics.

All experiences contributed to less feelings of sadness, negativity and boredom, but watching nature documentaries through virtual reality headsets goes one step further. According to the study, this method directly resulted in increased happiness and enhanced the feeling of connection to the natural world of all participants.

Lead researcher, Nicky Yeo suggests the findings could imply a significant step forward in combating isolation when people are facing long periods at home.

“Our results show that simply watching nature on TV can help to lift people's mood and combat boredom.”

"With people around the world facing limited access to outdoor environments because of COVID-19 quarantines, this study suggests that nature programmes might offer an accessible way for populations to benefit from a 'dose' of digital nature."

How to create your own nature sanctuary at home

Wherever you are right now, the ongoing pandemic will be having some kind of impact on your daily life, whether that’s interaction with others or access to the outdoors.

This research could be the start of bringing the therapeutic potential of nature to the masses. But we can utilise this right now, and reap the benefits of nature from inside our four walls? Try these four tips to transform your own home into your very own nature sanctuary.

Introduce essential oils

Bring the rich, natural scents of the outside in through an aromatherapy diffuser. Burn sandalwood, a deep, woody fragrance ideal for calming nerves and improving focus. This wonderful earthy scent is similar to that of the forest. Or, perhaps use a lavender sleep spray on your pillow or a rose-scented de-stress roller to induce calm when rolled across your wrists.

Bring the outside in with natural oils

Escape in sleep stories

Meditation and mindful apps such as SmilingMind and Calm host a variety of sleep stories that lull you into a restful sleep, to the sound of your favourite outdoor activity. Whether that’s surrounded by peaceful waves, a crackling campfire or lush rainforest, indulge in a little escapism to far flung destinations.

Fill your home with green

Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to a garden and, when restrictions are placed upon us, the effects of not having your own green space can be paramount. So why not try creating your green space inside with a variety of easy-to-care-for houseplants? Your home will instantly transform, and you can nurture your seedlings to grow and flourish.

Maximise natural light

The power of natural light can be underestimated, and so often the doom and gloom of a room clouded in shadow can go so far as to affect our moods. Try opening your curtains as soon as you wake up, and make your way through the house, cracking a window, moving anything that’s blocking light from outside. The process is surprisingly therapeutic.

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