What if there was a free way to reduce stress, increase brain function, and improve mental and physical health. And what if it was accessible to absolutely everyone?
What if we told you it already exists…in the great outdoors.
There are numerous reasons to spend more time outside, especially if you work in an indoor office space. Along with the general happiness one tends to feel in nature, spending time outside actually changes your brain in ways that increase your cognitive function, enhances your productivity, and boosts your short-term memory.
The Importance of Getting Outdoors
The risk of not going outside can have serious effects on our mental and physical health. Here’s are the benefits you can enjoy from the great outdoors:
Increased Brain Function
Fresh air has been shown to be a more effective wake-up call than one cup of coffee. Don’t worry, we’re not telling you to cut the coffee. We’re simply recommending that you take your coffee break outside. After your stroll, enjoy the benefits of increased creativity, improved short-term memory and sharper thinking overall.
Believe it or not, our natural habitat isn’t actually indoors with a room full of desks and computer screens. We belong outside, and spending more time in the great outdoors has been proven to significantly reduce stress and anxiety.
More specifically, the scent of flowers, such as jasmine, lilacs and roses, have been proven to decrease stress and increase relaxation. Additionally, the scent of fresh pine has been proven to lower depression and anxiety. Next time you feel those cortisol levels rising, head for the exit sign and spend some time with nature.
Improved Physical Health
We already know that sitting all day is killing us. Stay healthy by getting up out of your chair throughout the day and going outside for a walk. Additionally, being outside allows your body to get enough Vitamin D, which can be a tricky nutrient to obtain from food and is best soaked up through direct sunlight. While we need to be cognizant of too much sun exposure, research supports 10-15 minutes per day is enough to get the proper amount of Vitamin D. That just so happens to be the perfect amount of time for an afternoon work break.
Restored Mental Energy
To no one’s surprise, the great outdoors is known to be a restorative environment, and studies have shown that even looking at pictures of nature elicit improved mental health. It’s also been proven that taking a walk outside (preferably somewhere green) decreases levels of anxiety and bad moods, with the presence of water making the positive effects even stronger.
How to Spend More Time Outside
There are several things that you can do to create a work environment that encourages outdoor breaks during your workday:
1. Take your meetings outside.
Any meeting that doesn’t require a laptop is an opportunity to go outside. Establish walking meetings on nice weather days, and reap some of those benefits listed above!
2. Go outside for lunch, phone calls and breaks.
If most of your meetings do require a screen, then take advantage of your lunch hour, phone calls and afternoon breaks to take a walk outside.
3. Change up your morning commute.
Challenge yourself to bike or walk to work so you can go into work with a clear mind and restore your brain after a long day. Align with your coworkers to see if anyone is on the same route, and use that time to go through your checklist for the day in a relaxed environment.
4. Take your laptop outside.
If you’re really invested in working outside, get a laptop with a glare-free screen. If you’re just easing into it, invest in a laptop sleeve or case that will protect your computer from the elements. Additionally, check out local parks and other public spaces that might offer free wifi for “work-from-home” days. You’d be surprised at what you’ll find!
Designing Outdoor Workspaces
If you have the opportunity to expand the setup of your office space, think about creative ways to encourage outdoor experiences for your employees.
Here are a few examples of projects we created for our clients:
Lockerbie Lofts – Indianapolis, Indiana
Kashi – Solana Beach, California
The Flats at Switch – Fishers, Indiana
We encourage you to enhance your brain function, relieve stress, deepen your thinking and do better work just by going outside during the workday. Challenge yourself and your employees to spend more time outside and reap the positive benefits of green space and fresh air.