In a set of recent experiments, researchers at the University of Rochester in New York monitored the effects of natural versus artificial environments, and found that nature makes us kinder and more caring.
"Previous studies have shown the health benefits of nature range from more rapid healing to stress reduction to improved mental performance and vitality," says Richard Ryan, professor of psychology, psychiatry and education at the University of Rochester, and co-author of the study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
"Now we've found nature brings out more social feelings, more value for community and close relationships. People are more caring when they're around nature," he says.
The effect doesn't necessarily hinge on daily hikes through fields and woods as much as it does paying attention to the natural elements we encounter every day. "It's about stopping and smelling the roses as opposed to passing them by while thinking of your next meeting," says Ryan.