Published: 8 January 2021 at 00:01
Study finds time spent outdoors is associated with higher levels of happiness
A new study has found that spending time outdoors and switching off our devices is associated with higher levels of happiness during a period of COVID-19 restrictions.
Previous academic studies have indicated how being outdoors, particularly in green spaces, can improve mental health by promoting more positive body image, and lowering levels of depression and anxiety.
Jointly led by academics from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Austria, and Perdana University in Malaysia, this new research examined how levels of happiness during a national lockdown were affected by being outdoors, the amount of daily screen time (use of TV, computer and smartphone) and feelings of loneliness.
Using an experience sampling method (ESM), the researchers measured levels of happiness amongst a group of 286 adults three times a day, at random intervals, over a 21-day period. This allowed the participants to provide data in real-time rather than retrospectively, helping to avoid recall biases.
The research, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, was carried out in April 2020, when the Austrian participants were allowed to leave their homes only for specific activities, which included exercise.
It found that levels of happiness were higher when participants were outdoors rather than indoors. In addition, more daily screen time and higher levels of loneliness were both associated with lower levels of happiness. The impact of loneliness on happiness was also weaker when participants were outdoors.
Co-lead author Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: