Stressed at work?

Stressed at work?
David Suzuki Foundation

By: David Suzuki Foundation

This article was written by the David Suzuki Foundation in partnership with Live Right Now.

Live Right Now is teaming up with the David Suzuki Foundation to launch the 30x30 Nature Challenge! This May, we challenge all Canadians to get outside for at least 30 minutes every day. Sign up for the challenge here. Be sure to fill out the survey so we can measure the impact of the challenge. Visit every day to log your minutes and watch the minute counter bring our 30x30 tree to life!

Is your office bad for your health and well-being? Unfortunately, a growing body of scientific evidence says yes.

The modern office pose - fingers on keyboard, slight slouch, glassy eyes fixed on glowing screen, bathed in unnatural light - can drain your vitality, happiness and creativity. Our sterile office setup was designed to maximize efficiency, but it reduces productivity and job satisfaction.

Even worse, modern workplaces are the main reason adults now spend about 9.3 hours a day sitting. The medical journal The Lancet estimates this unprecedented level of inactivity is causing 5.3 million deaths a year worldwide, similar to deaths from smoking. This prompted the Harvard Business Review to suggest, "Sitting is the smoking of our generation."

The good news is that researchers have built an increasingly persuasive case for what most of us know intuitively: nature is good for us. Being regularly immersed in a natural setting can reduce stress while boosting immunity, energy levels and creativity.

As neuroscientist Marc Berman explains, adding a daily dose of green to your routine may be the best prescription for dealing with workday stress. His research shows that even simple and brief interactions with nature can increase cognitive control and well-being.

Why does green time reduce stress? Various studies suggest exposure to natural settings rouse a phenomenon called "soft fascination" - something New York Times reporter Gretchen Reynolds called "a beguiling term for quiet contemplation, during which directed attention is barely called upon and the brain can reset those overstretched resources."

University of Michigan researchers estimated that memory performance and attention span can improve by 20 per cent after an hour in nature. University of Rochester studies concluded that being outside for just 20 minutes a day is sufficient to boost vitality levels. And a new study from Scotland demonstrated brain fatigue can be eased with a 10-minute walk in the park.

But how can we fit more green time into our hectic schedules?

The David Suzuki Foundation in partnership with CBC's Live Right Now is offering a solution with the 30x30 Nature Challenge. We're asking Canadians to spend at least 30 minutes a day in nature for 30 days in May.

Finding your nature fix can be as easy as holding your next meeting outdoors, maybe even making it a walking meeting. Invite your colleagues to have lunch in a nearby park. Take the scenic route home and go for a walk along the way. Stop to smell the flowers and take notice of critters, trees and plants. Skip the gym, and head outside for a jog or bike ride.

Even if you can't make it outside for your daily dose of nature, you can find simple things to do inside the workplace to become happier and healthier.

As Alan Logan and Eva Selhub document in their book, Your Brain on Nature, workers in windowless settings are more anxious, hostile and depressed than colleagues on windowed floors. Increasing natural light within the workplace has been linked to improved productivity and worker contentment. Researchers in Texas even found employees in offices with plants or green-space views felt greater job satisfaction and reported a higher overall quality of life.

Interestingly, researchers have also found that increased exposure to nature leads people to nurture closer relationships and build stronger community bonds. Capilano University professor Joe Kelly observed during his recent effort to spend at least an hour a day outside each day in March, "free of the distractions and background noise present in the city, the serenity of nature provides a perfect venue to connect with others."

Even the world's worst boss should know employees who are less stressed and healthier are more productive. So why not sign up for the 30x30 Nature Challenge - and encourage your office mates to join? Challenge your entire company to head outside for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. Visit LiveRightNow every day to log your minutes and help grow the 30x30 tree. Don't forget to take part in the surveys before and after the challenge.

Tell us how you feel below. Does regular time in nature make you calmer? More alert? Happier? Let's all start a nature habit and learn how spending time in nature can make our lives better.


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