Take it Outside!

Jul 08, 2020
Janus 040 FNL

Now more than ever, do you feel stifled by the four walls of your office, home, or cubicle?

Confining ourselves indoors has produced what health experts call a "nature deficit disorder" -- depression or anxiety resulting from too little time spent outside—getting outside can-do great things for your health. Reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and improving immune function are among nature's health benefits. Just by incorporating elements of nature into your workday, you can give your brain a boost, resulting in increased productivity, focus, and creativity.

Harvard physician Eva M. Selhub, the co-author of Your Brain on Nature, says a drop of nature is like a drop of morphine to the brain since it "stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response, which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate, and blood pressure and improved immune response."

Turning off the sensors that are involved in the stress response allows the higher brain centers to be accessed, resulting in increased concentration, improved memory, greater creativity, and productivity, and reduced mental fatigue. While Selhub says spending 20 minutes a day outdoors is recommended, studies have shown that even looking at photographs of nature can deliver some of the same cognitive benefits as physically being outdoors. A 2008 study at the University of Michigan showed students who looked at photos of nature performed better on tests of attention and working memory than those who looked at photographs of urban scenes.

So, what can we do to boost those higher brain centers, especially during these stressful times?

  • Take your meetings outside – host a virtual, in person, or walking outdoor meeting. Amit Bendov, CEO of SiSense, a business-intelligence and analytics-software company, invites a different employee each day for "walk and talk" sessions. "It's a great way to get people away from their computer screens [and] it provides employees with a safe environment to bring up concerns, a positive atmosphere to brainstorm and a literal and metaphoric breath of fresh air," says Bendov.
  • Take your laptop outdoors – working at the park, your porch, company provided outdoor space, or any outside area can provide the mental stimulation you need to get through the day.
  • Add nature to your office area- if you don't have a window surround your office with plants and images of the outdoors. This can deliver some of the same improvements in mental function as spending time outdoors. If you have a window, consider facing your desk so that you can look out at your surroundings.
  • For companies looking to design their offices with mental and physical health in mind. Look for buildings with lots of natural light and take careful consideration during the design of the space not to build office walls that will block light from the rest of the office. Incorporating plants into the workplace is also important for improving health. “Plants cleanse the air and help freshen the mind, reducing headaches and fatigue,” says Jamie Russo, chief of work and wellness at Enerspace -- a co-working space in Palo Alto, Calif., and Chicago.

Get up and move – by moving between the indoors and outdoors, it can give you more energy and improve your mental wellbeing. This alone can make you feel energized and more productive.

We are happy to help you get your outdoor space ready for your meetings and workday!

Evans, Lisa. “Why You Should Take Your Work Outdoors.” Entrepreneur, 15 May 2014, www.entrepreneur.com/article/233897.

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