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Watching nature programmes “makes you happier”

Watching nature programmes “makes you happier”, according to an international study published by BBC Earth.

‘The Real Happiness Project’ investigated nature programming’s direct impact on the mood and wellbeing of its viewers.

It found that even short engagement with such shows leads to significant increases in positive emotions including awe, contentedness, joy and amusement. It also found substantial decreases in emotions such as nervousness, anxiety, fear, stress and tiredness.

BBC Worldwide’s in-house research team collaborated with Professor Dacher Keltner, who oversees Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley on a two-phased study. The first was a global quantitative research project of over 7,500 nationally-representative participants from the US, UK, Singapore, India, South Africa and Australia, and the second was a literature review of over 150 scientific studies that have explored the link between a connection with nature and human happiness and wellbeing.

Aiming to further enrich the study, the research team worked with Crowd Emotion, a tech start-up that specialises in emotion recognition, using cutting edge facial mapping technology to understand how viewers respond to video footage.

The research was commissioned to mark the launch of one of the BBC’s most ambitious landmark nature series in ten years – Planet Earth II.

Keltner said: “The shifts in emotion demonstrated in the BBC study as a result of watching this powerful natural history series are significant as we know that wonder and contentment are the foundations of human happiness.

“If people experience feelings of awe, they are more likely to display empathetic and charitable behaviours and have been shown to be better able to handle stress.”

Mike Gunton, executive producer of Planet Earth II, added: “What excites me about this study is seeing how Planet Earth II connects with people on a deep emotional level – as a film maker that is very rewarding.

“We’re always striving to bring our audiences closer to nature and it’s thrilling to see how this can generate such positive emotions and have a powerful impact on our viewer’s mood and wellbeing. I hope that in sparking an appreciation of the natural world Planet Earth II will also encourage people to love and protect the natural world.”