The Benefits of Nature for Your Mental Health
We all have moments at work where we feel like we aren’t being as productive as we could be. Whether it’s being overwhelmed by a long to-do list or procrastinating and pushing off a project, instead of spinning your wheels at your desk, it’s better to step away for a few minutes to go for a walk outside. While it may be tempting in those moments to grab your phone and zone out looking at posts and stories on Instagram or Facebook, your brain will be a lot better served going outside. In today’s blog, we’ll look at the benefits of nature and the profound impacts it has on our brains and our behavior.
In a recent Inc. article, they talk about the benefits of “soft fascination” as a way to refresh your busy mind. The gist is that time in nature provides us with the perfect environment where our brain is engaged and stimulated enough with our surroundings to give our minds an opportunity for reflection and introspection. The article says, “To reset your fatigued brain, you don't need another Netflix binge or exciting weekend activity. You don't want to distract your brain or shut it off. Instead, seek out the middle path between boredom and engagement that scientists call ‘soft fascination.’” Time in nature doesn’t require intentional focus but does engage your mind just enough so you find an ideal “Goldilocks” point of brain stimulation. Walking has numerous benefits, not just the physical ones, it’s also beneficial for your brain and mental health. In a Harvard Medical School article, they state that a “brief bout of aerobic exercise can help if you need to stay focused on a task and solve problems more efficiently.” The next time you feel your work anxiety rising, take a short walk outside before your stress becomes overwhelming. Try to also make it a part of your daily routine by scheduling moments during your day to take a walk outside. Maybe that’s first thing in the morning to set the tone for your day, during your lunch break, or as a transition in the evening to switch you from work mode to your personal life.
Often even just a 15-minute walk outside will allow you to clear your mind and shift your mood to be in a calmer state. Let’s say though, that even a brief walk isn’t possible at a particularly stressful moment. In that case, opening a window or looking at a picture of nature that you have set as a screensaver or background on your computer can help. Think about also bringing nature indoors and having a plant next to you at your desk (which has been shown to make people happier and more productive) or other elements of nature nearby (such as nature photographs, seashells or rocks you’ve collected, etc.). While these small additions won’t have as big of an impact as physical time spent in nature, they can be a valuable tool to help you ground and center yourself.