If you’ve ever felt a bit guilty popping on the TV in the evening, worry no more! New scientific research has revealed that watching programmes like Countryfile and Springwatch can be good for you.

The study, undertaken by Anglia Ruskin University, found that watching short films of natural environments helped participants experience positive body image, including respect for their own bodies and rejecting ‘rigid ideals’ around appearance.

But not all TV is created equal, and your Eastenders habit, sadly, won’t yield the same results. The participants were also shown footage of urban environments and the researchers found no effect, either good or bad, on their body appreciation.

The results were published in the journal Body Image. The lead researcher Viren Swami says:

‘There are a number of possible explanations for our results, including the idea that natural environments promote ‘soft fascination’, which is a state of cognitive quiet that fosters self-kindness and helps individuals have a more compassionate view of their body. Views of rivers and trees are also devoid of any reminders of materialism, and so allows the viewer respite from thoughts of consumption and image.

‘However, more work still needs to be done to fully understand exactly how exposure to natural environments promotes improvements in body image, as well as how our findings here translate to how people view nature films outside the laboratory. For example, if we watch Springwatch on the sofa whilst at the same time checking our Twitter feed, it’s possible the natural scenes might not have the same immersive effect.

‘However, our findings suggest that there could be a straightforward and low-cost solution for promoting healthier body image, particularly for individuals who may not have easy access to real natural environments, for example if they live in a city centre or because of a lack of mobility.’

A previous study, also carried out by Professor Swami, had shown that spending time ingrain spaces such as parks also helps to promote positive body image.

So whether you’re out and about, or having a cuppa in front of a nature programme, your mental health is in for some serious benefits.