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If you’ve ever sat at your desk on a sunny day and wished you could be outside, you know how strong the call of nature can be.  Business Optimizer considers the science around whether or not to listen to the voice telling you to move your office outdoors. 

The siren call of nature comes naturally to human beings – and it turns out there are some really positive results for those who listen to and act on that calling.

Today’s productivity experts are demonstrating the link between being outside and our wellbeing.  This includes:

  • Improved concentration
  • Improved creativity
  • Increased numbers of people reporting they feel “happier”
  • Lowered stress levels
  • Potential health benefits based on reduced stress

Why move your desk outside?

We’ve known about the pull of the great outdoors on our psyches since Edward O. Wilson coined the term “biophilia” in 1984.

Wilson pointed out that humans have a biological connection with nature – and we have an innate tendency to seek out this connection.

Harvard physician Eva M Selhub, co-author of Your Brain on Nature, about the science of nature’s influence on your health and happiness, says as little as 20 minutes spent in nature can have positive effects for our brains and our bodies.  She says nature “stimulates reward neurons in your brain.  It turns off the stress response which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improved immune response.”

Furthermore, by turning off the sensors associated with the stress response in our bodies, we can access higher brain performance.  This results in improved concentration and memory, greater creativity, and a boost to productivity.

Nature is fuel for the soul

The healing power of nature has led experts to suggest that we all need to make more time in our lives to be outside and experience the great outdoors.

Richard Ryan, a professor at the University of Rochester and lead author of a series of studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, says “nature is fuel for the soul… Often, when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energised is to connect with nature.”

These scientists and productivity experts echo what many of us know anecdotally from our own lives.  British woodcraft expert Ray Mears, for example, has described how being in nature has a spiritual dimension for him.

Forests, lakes and rivers

This type of experience has led to the development of a new movement for “forest bathing” which advocates being in forests and woodland in order to feel rejuvenated and revived.  Based on the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, forest bathing has been shown to help reduce stress and create a sense of wellbeing.

In one survey, people who gazed on forest scenery for 20 minutes were shown to have 13.4 percent lower average concentration of salivary cortisol, a stress hormone, than people in urban settings.

Similarly the “wild swimming” movement attempts to enable us to reconnect with nature in order to gain a greater sense of peace of mind and calmness.  First advocated by the late journalist and author, Roger Deakin, in his book “Waterlog”, wild swimming has a growing legion of fans who love the feeling of reconnecting with the wild.

Back to the future

Shinrin-yoku and wild swimming may sound like new, alternative therapies, but their advocates argue that, in many ways, these movements represent an age-old need; a desire to return to our original state of being.  Human beings have worked and lived outside for most of our history.  Only in the last 300 years, since the beginnings of the industrial revolution have we increasingly turned our backs on the natural world.

New initiatives to create green spaces, eco-friendly buildings, bathe in woodland or open water simply help us turn the clock back a little and do what comes naturally.

Discover some of the most exciting places to work outside.

Or read up on how to get outside for yourself in Business Optimizer’s guide to the practicalities of working outside.

Discover some of the most exciting places to work outside.

Or read up on how to get outside for yourself in Business Optimizer’s guide to the practicalities of working outside.