March 5, 2017
Research has recently come to light that if you live in a neighbourhood surrounded by trees, shrubs, and chirping birds, then there is less chance for you to suffer from anxiety or stress.
According to researchers, lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. But can it really be that simple?
People are increasingly spending time indoors, and with the majority of the day for most spent inside at a computer, it’s no wonder that we’re starting to see the health detriments to society.
The link between the role of nature for our mental well-being has long been established, yet many still fail to get their daily dose of the outside world.
There are several ways that you can try to up the dose of nature in your daily life:
1. Exercise outdoors. Gym memberships can be an astronomical cost, with some gyms demanding up to $100 a week from some of their members. Exercise doesn’t have to be such a costly exercise, AND doing it outdoors gives you a considerable chunk of your day connecting with nature. Go for a walk / jog / run, complete a circuit in your local park, join an outdoor bootcamp at lunchtime; the options are out there!
2. Take a break. I actually think smokers have this one down pat the best. While I don’t advocate for smoking in any way, the one thing that they do best is take breaks regularly outside! Back in my corporate life, I used to get the smokers of the office to come and take me on their ‘smoko breaks’ as a reminder to get outside. As long as I stood upwind, it was a great chance for me to get a few extra minutes outside with nature and re-centre before heading back into the office. A great way to boost your productivity as well!
3. Implement outdoor meetings. I’ve spoken about this before, but on top of having walking meetings (or if that’s not possible), get your meetings outside. Technology has meant that we can be very mobile and portable with our ideas, so take the meeting to a café with an outdoor area, or meet in a bigger space that has access to sunshine and all the elements. It’s amazing how refreshed you’ll feel afterwards compared to being stuck in an air-conditioned building.
4. Convert your commute. We often become so stuck in our ways that we forget the various options we have for commuting. You can walk/jog/run all or part of the way, ride a bike, ride a skateboard/scooter, get creative! Getting up that little bit earlier or getting home just that little bit later will be worth it for your mental and physical health.
5. Bring nature to you. While working outside or out of an office is not a reality for all of us, we can try and bring some of the elements from the outside in. Invest in a plant or succulent that you can have in the office and encourage others to ‘green up’ the space. Research has shown that just looking at nature can help you to feel more relaxed, so when that deadline is becoming overwhelming, or you’ve received a passive aggressive email from a colleague, or your boss is breathing down your neck, you just need a few minutes staring at something green and natural to calm the mind.
So while the headline grab of ‘birds improve mental health’ may be a little simplified, this study does uncover the role primary components of nature contribute toward our mental health. Integrating nature into our daily lives highlights the benefits of preventative healthcare and encourages us as a society to make our cities a healthier place to live.