There are no shortage of ways to feel happier - a luxury vacation would probably do it, so would a giant cash windfall. But while all of these things would definitely put a smile on your face, they are all also pretty much out of reach for most people.
What we all desperately seek isn't just happiness boosters, it's tricks and techniques that we can realistically implement given our busy lifestyles and limited budgets. Recent science may have found a great one.
$10,000 richer or 7 years younger
Previous research has shown that nature can have impressive effect on our moods, revealing that something as minuscule as looking at a green space for 40 seconds can make you measurably happier and more productive. But does that principle extend further? Does more green in your environment mean even more happiness?
It seems like it does. A massive study by a team out of the University of Chicago analyzed data on Toronto's 530,000 trees, as well as health records of some 30,000 of the city's residents to determine the effect of neighborhood trees on people's perceived well-being. The research turned up a host of interesting findings, but a few numbers stand out.
"The researchers were able to compare the beneficial effect of trees in a neighborhood to other well-known demographic factors that are related to improved health, such as age and wealth. Thus, they found that 'having 10 more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger,'" reports the Washington Post.
Those are some pretty impressive statistics for something as easily manageable as a few more trees on your street. Why does a bit more green make people feel so much happier and healthier? Improved air quality might be a factor. Or it might have something to do with the fact that people get out and exercise more in greener neighborhoods, but the study authors also point to the science showing that exposure to nature itself appears to be a powerful stress killer.
So get yourself a shovel.
The obvious takeaway here is that you might want to talk to your neighbors about getting together and greening up your block. But even if you live in the sort of urban environment where that's not really feasible (or a rural environment where trees aren't at all in short supply) there are other ways to put these insights to use.
If you can't add a tree to your block, you can almost certainly add a plant to your desk. And if you totally lack a green thumb (or a desk), even having green paint and natural materials in your workplace has been shown to lower stress. That might not be worth $10,000 in happiness, but it is surely worth the minimal effort it entails.