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Opinion: Connecting with nature a sure-fire way to bolster your wellbeing


Watching footage such as this of a frog from Planet Earth II makes us feel less stressed, a study shows

Watching footage such as this of a frog from Planet Earth II makes us feel less stressed, a study shows

Watching footage such as this of a frog from Planet Earth II makes us feel less stressed, a study shows

Watching nature programmes makes us happier. It's probably something we would all have thought. But now, it's official.

The BBC recently published the results of The Real Happiness Project, which confirms that even short engagement with such shows leads to significant increases in positive emotions including awe, contentedness and joy.

The research followed the launch of the BBC's Planet Earth II last November, which, like Planet Earth a decade earlier, is inspiring unprecedented numbers of people to connect with the natural world.

Although both genders experienced increases in positive feelings, the increase for women was 35pc stronger.

The effect was even more pronounced on younger people, who, at the outset, were feeling higher levels of negative emotions, such as anxiety.

The BBC study adds to a growing body of scientific evidence showing that a connection to nature is of fundamental importance to a person's wellbeing.

In the same vein, I really want to mention TG4's recent two-part series Éire Fhiáin. Produced and presented by Eoin Warner, it has, rightly, been dubbed Ireland's answer to Planet Earth.

Teeming with colour, life and atmosphere, it's well- paced, the footage sublime and the accompanying music a perfect match.

It also felt really Irish. I never realised my own country was so beautiful. Hearty congratulations to all concerned.

I'm delighted to say that I got to participate in my own nature programme last week. Well, sort of.

This is my favourite time of year, when nature is bursting into life, and it was a joy to be accompanied on a walk around the farm by my ecologist friend, Fiona MacGowan. She is a veritable library of information and a great storyteller, to boot.

A lark was singing high in the sky, there were primroses on a sheltered grassy bank and marsh marigolds along the edge of a small stream.

Then we saw a small flock of lapwings, or green plovers.

They were in a field which is now in GLAS as low-input permanent pasture. Unknowingly, we had been managing this field in a way that promoted biodiversity. It is wettish, so it would have been late when it was grazed. Overgrazing reduces biodiversity but so does undergrazing.

Fiona told me the lapwing is actually the national bird of Ireland. This was apparently agreed at a birding conference many years ago. But it doesn't seem to have caught on. One possible claim to the title is that the lapwing's colours include green, white and gold/orange.

The Irish word for lapwing is pilibín, after King Philip II of Spain, a slight, elegant man who was often depicted wearing a hat with a curled feather. Through his marriage to Queen Mary I of England, he was King of Ireland from 1554-58.

Something else I didn't know is that it was after these monarchs that King's County and Queen's County (now Offaly and Laois, respectively) were created and named in 1556.

Lapwings were once common in Ireland but are now red-listed from a conservation point of view. We get plenty of winter visitors but the breeding population has plummeted.

This is due to habitat loss and not the previous demand for lapwings and plovers as food. Niall Mac Coitir, in his book Ireland's Birds points out that the L'Estrange Household Book (of Norfolk), published in 1520, recorded the price of golden plovers' eggs at twopence each, a considerable sum at the time.

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For country dwellers, the wonders of nature are all around us.

Had I done the same walk on my own, I would still have enjoyed it. But I wouldn't have seen half as much.

Or at least known what I was seeing.

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