Would riding in nature make you happier than riding in an urban area? Researchers analysed thousands of people’s holiday photographs from all over the world to find out the value of experiences in nature. Let’s see what they have to say.

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Researchers used social media and AI

A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore used social media and artificial intelligence to evaluate the benefits of nature experiences. They analysed 31,500 photos from 185 countries on social media with the help of automated image recognition technology.

“Integrating social media data and AI opens up a unique opportunity for us to carry out unprecedented large-scale global studies such as this to better understand our interactions with nature in our daily lives,” said Dr Chang, lead author and research fellow at the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore.

Humans have a tendency to seek nature

The analysis revealed that pictures tagged with words like fun, vacation, or honeymoon were consistently more likely to contain nature in the form of open landscape, water, or plants than pictures tagged daily or routine. These finding provide further evidence for the biophilia hypothesis – humans’ innate tendency to seek connection with nature.

More nature experiences lead to a higher life satisfaction

The study also found that countries which have more elements of nature in photographs tagged as fun, such as Costa Rica or Finland, have higher life satisfaction scores according to the World Happiness Report 2019.

Assoc. Prof Carrasco said, “Our study brings to light the cultural and social values that nature brings to humans. It further emphasises the importance of preserving our natural environment for the loss of nature may mean more than losing quantifiable economic and ecological benefits; it could also mean losing the background to our fondest memories.”

This study is a great reminder that nature is closely tied to emotional happiness, relaxation and life satisfaction around the world. So, when planning your next ride, consider including the steep climb to the top of your local hill to take in those landscape views or do some trails to spend time surrounded by trees. It will do you good.

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