Want to feel happier? Spend 2 hours outside this week

Two hours a week. Seventeen minutes per day. That's all it takes to lead a more fulfilling life, a recent study suggests.

All you have to do is step outside.

The study - published last month in Scientific Reports - followed roughly 20,000 people from all walks of life and asked them about their health and general well-being. Researchers then compared those responses to the amount of time participants reported spending outside over the course of a week.

Their findings reaffirm what years of other research (and our own experiences) has already suggested: people who spend time outside are happier and healthier. This study, however, adds something new: the exact amount of outdoor time you need to make a major improvement in your life.

That perfect number is 120 minutes per week. Any amount of time less than that doesn't make a significant impact, the researchers found.

The great news is you can reach that two-hour mark just about any way you like and still experience the benefits, the study says. Go for a two-hour hike on a Saturday, or just sit in your backyard for 17 minutes per day. It doesn't matter if you're relaxing or exercising, if you do the 120 minutes in one chunk or spread it throughout the week, or if you travel into the wilderness or take two steps out your door. As long as you spend two hours outside, you'll likely feel a whole lot better than if you spent the week inside.

The researchers caution they can't definitely prove a cause-effect relationship between happiness and going outside. Happy people might just be more inclined to spend time in nature, or they might be more likely to stay physically active.

We suspect, though, that they're on to something. Other studies have shown the ways nature promotes physical healing, decreases the likelihood of mental illness, reduces stress and improves concentration.

More importantly, we see how happy our friends and family look when they sit by a pond or listen to the sound of a trickling waterfall. We see it in our customers and experience it ourselves every day.

So go ahead and set aside 17 minutes each morning to drink a cup of coffee by your pond, or spend a couple hours this weekend planting new waterlilies or cannas.

We promise it will be time well spent.

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