How nature helps us to be more productive, creative and healthy

Coworking in nature – how do we benefit from this?

Who doesn’t know the feeling of working inside at the desk, but the inspiration or productivity flow you need right know just doesn’t want to come? Yes, there are tons of different tips and advice that tell us how to improve our level of productivity and brain capacity, but does it always have to be that complex? There is one really simple tool that has remarkable positive effects on our mental power: being outside in nature.

Although most of us will know the clarifying feeling that comes after a walk outside, it is not always easy to integrate nature breaks into daily work-life. Let’s have a look at what’s happening when you change your working place into a more natural environment.There are numerous biochemical and physiological changes throughout your entire body:

Improves memory functions and attention span

Multiple studies have proven the positive influences of natural environments on our memory and attention span. One study of the University of Michigan for example has shown how a short walk in nature can boost our short-term memory: Two separated groups of students had to fill out a memory test. After that one group took a walk around an arboretum, and the other took a walk down a city street. When the students came back and did the test again, those who had walked among trees did almost 20% percent better than the first time. The group who had taken in city sights instead, did not consistently improve. Compared to an urban environment, where our attention has to be in several directions at once, nature helps us to calm our minds and sharpen our focus.

Nature prevents ‘mental fatigue syndrome’

The natural environment has a general restorative effect on our brain and this is why nature also helps us to prevent “mental fatigue syndrome”, the phenomenon of an overwhelmed and mentally drained mind. In our overstimulated world this is quite a serious issue, because this state of mind doesn’t allow us to use our full mental potential. But even short breaks in nature can help to prevent this and refresh our mind again. People that just looked at pictures of nature have even attested to the restoration of the mind.

Lower stress, better health

Sitting in natural surroundings is positively impacting our immune system, lowering your blood pressure and improving the blood flow to provide oxygen. In general our hormone and heart system is more balanced. Natural environments are especially effective when it comes to the hormone cortisol – a hormone that is often used as a marker for stress. In one study, researchers found a decrease in both heart rate and levels of cortisol in subjects in the forest when compared to those in the city. “Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy,” they concluded. Among office workers, even the view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.

The „green effect“: How nature influences our creativity

A study has shown that people who looked at the colour green for two seconds before doing a creative task had better results and produced more creative ideas then people who looked at other colours. In the study that was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, scientists gave 69 men and women two minutes to write down as many uses as possible for a tin can. Then a coder rated each idea for its creativity and cleverness. The test has shown that the attendees that saw green before the task produced more creative ideas than those who saw other colours. The green colour that was used in the experiments had the same shade seen in nature and in growing plants „Green may serve as a cue that evokes the motivation to strive for improvement and task mastery, which in turn may facilitate growth“ says Lichtenfeld, an assistant professor of psychology at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany. Another study found that people immersed in nature for four days improved their performance on a creative problem-solving test by 50%.

In sum nature is not just improving your productivity – it is at the same time influencing our behaviour, health, and emotions in a very positive way. Based on this knowledge many major tech companies have already started to implement natural designs into the working spaces—pathways through gardens, views of trees, green roofs and walls, an abundance of plants. However this is a great development – enjoying the benefits of nature can be so much easier – just take your laptop and come to work in the countryside.

Sources:

Psychological Science, 2008; PLOS ONE, 2012

Environmental Science and Technology, 2010; Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012; Journal of Affective Disorders, 2013

Donald, I., Taylor, P., Johnson, S., Cooper, C., Cartwright, S., & Robertson, S. (2005). Work environments, stress, and productivity: An examination using ASSET. International Journal of Stress Management, 12(4), 409–423.

KOMPIER, M., & Cooper, C. (2012). Introduction: Improving work, health and productivity through stress prevention. In Preventing stress, improving productivity (pp. 19-26). Routledge.

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