New research shows that there's truth to the idea that nature and spending time outdoors can improve happiness.

The study showed that if people simply take time to notice the nature around them, it will increase their general happiness and well-being.

Even if it's just birds flying in a crowded city or a tree at a bus stop, noticing nature can also improve 'prosocial orientation' - the willigness to share and place value on one's community, reports Daily Mail.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) study examined the effects of a two-week intervention involving nature.

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Undergraduate students were asked to document how nature they encountered in their daily routine made them feel.

They took a photo of the item that caught their attention and wrote down a short note about their feelings in response to it.

The examples of nature could be anything not human built: a house plant, a dandelion growing in a crack in a sidewalk, birds, or sun through a window.

Meanwhile, a second group of study participants tracked their reactions to human-made objects instead, again taking a photo and jotting down their feelings.

A third control group did neither, continuing their everyday lives.

"This wasn't about spending hours outdoors or going for long walks in the wilderness," says Holi-Anne Passmore, a PhD psycholo student at UBC's Okanagan campus and the lead author of the study.

"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."

Passmore, who studies wellness, says she was "overwhelmed" not just by the response of the 395 study participants - who submitted more than 2,500 photos and and descriptions of emotions - but also by the impact that noticing emotional responses to nearby nature had on well-being.

"The difference in participants" well-being - their happiness, sense of elevation, and their level of connectedness to other people, not just nature - was significantly higher than participants in the group noticing how human-built objects made them feel and the control group.

It also had an impact on their prosocial orientation - a willingness to share resources and the value they placed on community.

There is scientific research that people who live in greenspaces generally seem to be happier, and may live longer than those who don't.

Passmore is building on this research, and the latest study is one of a series by a research team in UBC Okanagan's psychology department known as the "Happy Team", which is providing evidence that nature can increase happiness.

How they did it

A University of British Columbia (UBC) study examined the effects of a two-week intervention involving nature.

395 Undergraduate students were asked to document how nature they encountered in their daily routine made them feel.

They took a photo of the item that caught their attention and wrote down a short note about their feelings in response to it.

Meanwhile, a second group of study participants tracked their reactions to human-made objects instead, again taking a photo and jotting down their feelings.

A third control group did neither, continuing their everyday lives.

The researchers founs that after the intervention, levels of positive emotions, elevating experiences and a general sense of connectedness to other people and nature and life as a whole, as well as prosocial orientation, were significantly higher in the nature group compaared to the human-built and control groups.