We often think of productivity as our ability to cram more into every hour of our workday. It’s associated with to-do lists, deadlines and creating efficiencies to maximize our output. We look to things like multitasking, processes and streamlining operations as the answer to increasing productivity, but what if the answer lies in the natural world?
Just as taking vacation time makes people more productive, you might also be surprised to learn that spending time in nature can boost productivity too. A number of studies have shown that being in nature or even looking at pictures of nature can improve cognitive function and increase employee productivity, while also lowering cortisol and blood pressure, making for healthier and less stressed out workers.
One study even found that just adding plants to the office environment could increase productivity by 15%. That’s huge! And if simply adding some greenery to the office can produce those kinds of productivity boosts, think about how much more you could achieve if you went further and tried to incorporate some time in nature into your daily routine.
But for millions of people living in cities across the country, accessing nature every day isn’t a realistic option. Many of us simply can’t find the time to immerse ourselves in nature even on the weekends, much less our workdays, so how can we benefit from this?
Make a commitment to getting out in nature once a month. Even if you can only get out of the city one weekend out of each month, you’ll still reap the rewards of being out in nature. Not only will you come back rejuvenated, it will become a mini-break that you start to look forward to as a reward for all of the hard work you put in each week. Plus, the simple act of planning a hiking or camping trip will activate those feel-good emotions without even leaving the house.
Take your exercise outdoors. You don’t have to be in a scenic forest or climbing a mountain to get the mood and cognitive boosting effects of nature. Working out in a park or running on the beach can do the same thing. So why not ditch the treadmill and the gym (at least one or two days a week) and take your workouts outside? You’ll challenge your body in new and different ways and get all the benefits of being in the great outdoors.
Walk and talk. Who says you have to sit at your desk to take calls or meetings? Why not head outside and get some fresh air while you work? You’ll not only benefit from getting around some green stuff – you’ll also get a boost of Vitamin D and a little endorphin kick from moving around.
Use your lunch hour. Rather than eating at your desk (which you already know is bad for you), take your lunch to the park and eat outside. If you’re dining out, choose a restaurant with a leafy patio or if you live near the beach, an ocean view. And of course, for those who like to exercise in their lunch hour, skip the gym and hit up a trail instead.
Bring nature to you. Can’t get out of the office? Bring the outdoors inside. Some simple ideas include: adding some indoor plants to your office, pulling the blinds and opening the window to get some fresh air and sunlight, and playing rainforest or ocean soundtracks while you work. If those are not options for you, put up some nature photos or paintings and make your desktop background a natural scene. Every little bit helps!
While getting out in nature may not be easy for many of us, it is well worth the effort. Why not start this weekend? The holiday weekend might be the perfect time to get out and explore some of the 60,000 miles of trails in the National Trail System or the countless local trails found across the country.