It’s Official – Watching Nature Programmes Makes You Happier!

It’s official. New BBC research – which included South African participants – reveals that watching nature programmes makes you happier!

BBC Earth, the BBC’s global factual brand, has today published findings of an international study titled The Real Happiness Project showing nature programming’s direct impact on the mood and wellbeing of its viewers.

Two lion cubs approximately 10 weeks old in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, about to follow their mother into the water. They are the newest members of a pride know as ‘Swamp Cats’ that specialise in hunting in the flooded Okavango wetlands.

The research – conducted with Professor Dacher Keltner, an expert in the science of emotion at the University of California, Berkeley – confirms that even short engagement with such shows leads to significant increases in positive emotions including awe, amazement, wonder; curiosity, joy, excitement and enthusiasm; contentment, relaxation and peacefulness; amusement, fun and laughter.

The study also found substantial decreases in emotions such as nervousness, anxiety, fear, stress, irritability and tiredness.


A mother three-toed pygmy sloth carries her baby on her chest. The youngster is around 6 months old, and will remain with its mother for a further 6 months, until it is able to fend for itself. Pygmy three-toed sloths are a unique species found on the single island of Escudo de Veraguas, off the coast of Panama. They have been isolated for around 9,000 years, due to sea level rise, and the small population are now a unique species.

When tested against a control group, all results above are proven to have been caused by watching natural history content.

The research was commissioned to mark the launch of the BBC’s most ambitious landmark nature series for ten years Planet Earth II, which premiered on BBC Earth on DStv in February to nationwide audiences and critical acclaim.

A decade ago, Planet Earth inspired an unprecedented number of people worldwide to connect with the natural world, gaining an estimated global audience of over half a billion people.

Planet Earth II launched in the UK in November and has already surpassed expectations by drawing the second largest live TV audience in Britain during 2016 and becoming the most successful nature documentary for 15 years!!!

Watch Nature Makes You Happy – BBC Earth

BBC Worldwide’s in-house research team collaborated with Professor Keltner, who oversees Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley on a two-phased study.

A global quantitative research project of over 7,500 nationally representative participants from the US, UK, Singapore, India, South Africa and Australia and a literature review of over 150 scientific studies that have explored the link between a connection with nature and human happiness and wellbeing.

To further enrich the study, the research team worked with Crowd Emotion, a pioneering tech start-up that specialises in emotion recognition, using cutting edge facial mapping technology to understand how viewers respond to video footage.

Professor Dacher Keltner of the University of California, Berkeley 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.”

Mike Gunton, Executive Producer of Planet Earth II said:

“I hope that in sparking an appreciation of the natural world Planet Earth II will also encourage people to love and protect the natural world.”

The demographic breakdown of the global sample revealed:

  • On the majority of measures, women experienced greater changes in emotions than men as a result of watching Planet Earth II.
  • Although both genders experienced significant increases in awe, amazement, wonder, the increase for women was 35% greater than amongst men. Watching Planet Earth II had a more pronounced effect on younger people, who were feeling higher levels of negative emotions at the outset. Younger people (16-24s) experienced the greatest amounts of change in nine of the 14 emotion sets amongst all age groups.
    • Their significant decreases in levels of nervousness, anxiety and fear; stress and overburden, and tiredness, fatigue and low energy were amongst the largest seen across all age groups in any emotion set.
    • Moreover, they had some of the highest levels of these emotions to begin with.

The BBC study adds to a growing body of scientific evidence proving that a connection to nature is of fundamental importance to a person’s health, happiness and wellbeing.

BBC Earth literature review findings:

  • Access to nature, both physical and through filmed footage and imagery can help people to manage the stress of modern living.
  • A connection to nature has multiple positive effects on outlook and behaviour including:
    • Enhanced attention, focus and cognitive performance
    • It decreases stress and enhances calm
    • People who experience a connection with nature are more pro-social and effective teamworkers
    • There are significant studies demonstrating the importance of nature to our physical health

To find out more about The Real Happiness Project and how you can benefit or get involved, visit

Watch Children React to Strange Animals – Real Happiness Project