The reality is for most of us these days our job will require sitting or standing in front of a computer screen for lengthy amounts of time. And since lockdown, how many of us now work from home rather than in a communal work place? Does this mean we now have less chance to get some fresh air or have exposure to nature? Even if it was just walking to the bus stop or popping out of the office to grab lunch, on those occasions, you might have walked past a tree with blossoms in the spring or through a park with birds singing.
Do we realise how beneficial these small exposures to nature can be to our health? Here are a few of these benefits:
Stress relief – high stress levels can hugely impact mental health and lead to other health issues like high blood pressure. By spending time outside in nature it can relieve stress and reduce cortisol levels in the blood. A study found that hiking and camping breaks resulted in lower cortisol levels compared to city breaks. Regular time spent outside even if its in a garden or park can help reduce stress. Do we take enough breaks outside? Do we start work at home, stay inside all day and then the evening arrives and before you know it you haven’t left the house? If you can’t get outside as often as you would like then can you set up your work station near a window. Those that have a window view are more satisfied and less stressed whilst working.
Improves wellbeing – the Japanese have a concept called “forest bathing” that stems from Japanese Shinrin-Yoku Forest Therapy going back to 1982. “Forest bathing” was an essential part of its national health program. Bathing in a natural environment, you don’t need to literally lie down in swimwear in a forest. Instead, it takes on a new meaning of immersing yourself in a natural environment. Science shows that insufficient Vitamin D increases the risk of health disorders like osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. The natural source of sunlight and getting enough of it can prevent diabetes, auto immune disorders and heart disease.
Improves your immune system – A study found that adults who spent a three day trip in the forest increased the number of white blood cells in their blood. The levels of white blood cells then stayed elevated for more than 30 days after their time in nature. The immune system works better when challenged by being outdoors which doesn’t happen if we spend too much time inside.
Sharpens your focus – A study found that attention is almost uniformly enhanced by exposure to nature. A study of children with ADHD found that spending 20 minutes in a park was enough to improve their attention performance. Adults too, taking breaks outside or having nature views from your workstation improves productivity and concentration. Spending more time in nature boosts cognitive function and creative problem-solving.
Improves short term memory – By immersing yourself in nature or having a view it can help to focus the mind. A busy setting, lights, traffic and noise can be distracting and pull your attention in all directions. This then makes it difficult to recall and focus things we have learned.
Improves Vision – An Australian study of 2,000 children found that spending more time playing outside significantly reduces the risk of becoming nearsighted. Looking at objects more than 2 feet away outdoors can prevent and even reverse Computer Vision Syndrome caused by screen time. There is also recent research showing that artificial light can provoke near sightedness.
These are just some of the benefits that nature can create. However, it’s not always easy to make these changes and get outside when life is busy and so much of it demands a screen. Maybe it’s time to start small and walk the block before starting working at home. Or move your work space to a window with a view. These small changes will be the start of something that can lead to better mind and better work productivity.