Everyone knows that listening to David Attenborough’s dulcet tones while watching scenes of awe-inspiring natural beauty is one of life’s great pleasures but now, scientists have confirmed that nature shows like Planet Earth really do help reduce stress and anxiety.
BBC Worldwide and University of California Berkeley researchers studied the reactions of 7,500 people from around the world as they watched clips from different genres of TV programme.
They used facial mapping technology to track how their moods were changing, before asking participants to complete psychometric tests and a questionnaire.
Increased joy and decreased stress
Planet Earth II was found to have boosted happiness levels and calmed negative emotions, with those that watched the clips experiencing “significant increases” in feelings of wonder, curiosity, awe, amazement, joy, excitement and enthusiasm, interest and wanting to explore, contentment, relaxation and peacefulness, having fun and laughing.
Women were most emotionally affected by Planet Earth II, with those aged between 16-24 enjoying the greatest benefits when it came to “significant decreases” in nervousness, anxiety and fear, stress and overburden, anger and irritability, tiredness, fatigue and low energy.
Linking happiness with handling stress
Professor Dacher Keltner, the university’s expert in the science of emotion, 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.”
But maybe skip the snakes
Planet Earth II aired last November and drew the second largest live TV audience in Britain that year with over 12 million viewers. It is the most successful nature documentary for 15 years, and is still available to watch online here.
Sit back and enjoy, though maybe don’t watch the baby iguana and snake chase if you’re hoping to relax, because few telly scenes have set our hearts racing faster. Oh, go on then, but don’t say we didn’t warn you:
Told you it was stressful.