By Sandi Schwartz
Whether you work at home alone or in a crowded office, you probably get antsy after sitting all day staring at your screen and stressed from jumping from one task to the next. Being cooped up and intensely working can take a toll on our mental and physical health. Physicians recommend we pay attention to our posture and take breaks to stretch our legs, but there is also another incredible way to balance our workday and reduce stress—connecting to nature.
A growing number of studies over the past few decades have shown the importance of nature in improving our health and happiness. Connecting to nature is a safe, effective tool to help minimize the effects of stress and boost mood. It also reduces our response to stress and allows us to recover from tense situations more quickly. Additionally, nature has been shown to improve focus and attention; lower the production of stress hormones like cortisol; and reduce stress-related physical symptoms like high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and muscle tension. Besides relaxation, nature can inspire creativity and improve productivity, which are critical ingredients for a successful career.
So, how can you add some nature to your hectic workday? Here are some fun, simple ways to get your nature fix:
Decorate Your Workspace with Nature Imagery
You do not even have to leave your chair to experience nature when you look up from your computer throughout the day. Just gazing at pictures of gorgeous nature scenes like beaches, forests, or snow-covered mountains can spark a sense of tranquility and wonder. A recent study by the University of South Australia found that displaying nature art in offices can reduce stress levels and mental fatigue by up to 40 percent. Consider hanging nature photography or paintings in your office or keeping inspiring nature photography books, like Ansel Adams’ collections, to enjoy when you need to recharge.
Add a Plant to Your Office
Adding greenery to our workspace will help make us feel better. Besides green being a soothing color, plants improve oxygen levels and freshness of a room. Research conducted in hospitals, offices, and schools has consistently found that placing a plant in a room can have a significant impact on improving mood.
Play Relaxing Nature Sounds
Listening to nature sounds can also improve your mood. One study found that people who listened to ocean waves had considerably lower stress levels. Another study showed that those who listened to bird songs became more relaxed than those who listened to a meditation app with a human voice. Decide which sounds bring you the most joy and be sure to intersperse them throughout your workday. There are tons of apps that you can explore to help you find soothing nature sounds. I like a white noise app that has several different nature sounds to choose from. For birdsong, check out https://www.allaboutbirds.org and https://www.audubon.org.
Watch Inspiring Nature Videos
Have you ever visited a doctor’s office that has a calming video of nature scenes playing in the waiting room? You can incorporate this tactic in your own office by either having nature videos playing on a separate screen throughout the day or by taking a video break to watch something that calms and inspires you, such as a rushing stream flowing over rocks, wildlife in their natural habitats, or sunrises and sunsets.
Take A Quick Field Trip
You are probably wondering—how am I going to have time for a field trip? Taking time away from the intensity of work can help you come back inspired, energized, and ready to work harder than ever. Carve out some time to escape from your desk for a bit to get outside. This can be a simple walk around the block in your neighborhood or by your office building or venturing to a park, botanical gardens, or local body of water. This is a wonderful way to spend your lunch break or when you start to feel sluggish later in the afternoon.
This one probably only works if you are in your home office. Take a quick pet break by walking outside with your dog or stroking your animal for a few minutes. Staring at a fish tank is another soothing option. Pets can have a profound impact on our well-being by reducing stress and anxiety and helping us feel happier.
Enjoy trying different ways to add more nature to your day. You will feel happier and calmer, and your colleagues will appreciate it!
Bio: Sandi Schwartz is the Director of the Ecohappiness Project; author of Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer; and journalist specializing in environmental, wellness, and parenting topics. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Scary Mommy, and Very Well Family, among other publications. Previously, she held communications positions at the United States Environmental Protection Agency and National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. Schwartz has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from The George Washington University, a Masters in Government (Environmental focus) from Johns Hopkins University, and Specialization Certificate in Foundations of Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Learn more at www.ecohappinessproject.com. Connect with Sandi via social media links: LinkedIn and Instagram