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Switch on a nature documentary for an instant mood boost

9Coach logo 9Coach 9/03/2017 Sam Downing
© Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd

Just half an hour outdoors in nature is a proven way to ease stress and boost your mood. But what about those days you can’t surround yourself with lush greenery? No problem — fire up a nature documentary instead.

A study funded by the BBC has discovered a significant uptick in emotion caused by watching nature docos — specifically from the BBC-produced series Planet Earth II.

Normally at Coach we might dismiss this as a suspiciously convenient finding (“Oh, that study you paid for just so happens to endorse that TV show you also paid for?”)… except Planet Earth II is astounding. It’s majestic AF. It’s superbly made. And it’s narrated by David Attenborough.

Of course it’s going to cheer people up.

A research team led by Professor Dacher Keltner, a psychologist who investigates emotion at the University of California, Berkeley, recruited thousands of people from around the world for the study.

Participants started by completing a short survey to rate their mood and then had their faces mapped by software that analysed their expressions and emotions, as they watched clips from Planet Earth II as well as news bulletins, a TV drama, and a control clip. After watching each clip, participants again rated their moods.

Incredible Planet Earth II © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Incredible Planet Earth II Those who’d watched Planet Earth II reported “significant” increases in positive emotions including awe, contentedness, joy and amusement, and substantial decreases in negative emotions such as nervousness, anxiety, fear, stress and tiredness.

Presumably the study participants watched a serene and breathtaking Planet Earth II scene, and not that intense nail-biter of the snakes chasing the iguana hatchling:

https://www.facebook.com/bbcearth/videos/1336934123006807/

Planet Earth II’s emotional benefit was particularly pronounced for women, with a 35 percent increase in the positive emotions compared to men.

Younger people, who generally reported stronger negative emotions before they watched the clips, were also most positively affected by exposure to Attenborough’s soothing voiceover.

“The shifts in emotion … are significant as we know that wonder and contentment are the foundations of human happiness,” said Professor Keltner in a statement.

“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.”

Planet Earth II airs in Australia in the Nine Network. Nine and Coach are both part of Nine Entertainment Co.

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