Written by Charlotte Wiseman
After over a year in varying levels of lockdown and very little travel, it is perhaps no surprise that the Mental Health Foundation chose nature as the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week last week. You were probably flooded with ideas to get you out into nature. But juggling a busy schedule means this is not always possible, so we wanted to bring you a different angle on how to celebrate nature – bring the outside in.
Did you know that adding natural features to an office space has been shown to reduce stress, improve workers’ wellbeing and improve productivity? Some of the reasons include:
Reducing stress levels
Being surrounded by green tones and plant life can change the way the brain responds to stressful experiences, essentially calming our nervous system. This means that we become more able to manage challenges, avoiding the potential negative psychological and physiological outcomes that can result from pressure. In addition to this, having plants in can help to reduce noise which is often an unnoticed stressor. A recent study of 7,600 employees across 16 countries showed that having natural features and plant life in your workplace could improve wellbeing by more than 15%. Other studies have shown a 37% reduction in anxiety; 58% drop in depression; a 44% and nearly 40% reduction in fatigue.
Improving focus, productivity & innovation
Just observing natural images improves our concentration, clarity of thought and creativity. Research from Harvard has demonstrated that we could potentially boost cognition by up to 26% by considering how we integrate green and natural elements into our office spaces. Other potential benefits are likely to be higher levels of job satisfaction, improved staff loyalty and morale, reduced illness and improved recovery from physical ill-health.
Supporting physical health
Not only does interaction with nature improve our mood, our energy and focus, it supports our immune function and physical health. If we do experience illness it also speeds up the recovery process, reducing our perceptions of pain and promoting healing in the body.
So, how can we use this in our home workspace? Here are three simple tips:
1. Add plants to your desk
It is important to know that not all plants will thrive with limited daylight, and you need to also consider the temperature of your space to pick a suitable option. Succulents (which include aloe and cacti), rubber plants and peace lilies are a safe option - the ultimate low maintenance desk feature perfect for grouping together. Just be careful not to overwater them.
Other good options include Pothos (or Epipremnum), as they can survive occasional periods of dryness if you forget to water them; Snake plants (or Sansevieria), which can tolerate both hot or heavily air-conditioned spaces; and Spider plants (or Chlorophytum comosum) which have the added benefit of naturally adding moisture to the air if your space is dry.
2. Use natural screensavers and images
Whether it’s mountains that motivate you, animals which energise you or seascapes which help you feel a little more serene, simply changing our screensavers to natural images, and using wall space for the same, can have a powerful effect in a short space of time. If you don’t have your own images that you want to use, we suggest Unsplash as a great source of free imagery.
3. Consider your social media feed
Rather than scrolling through images of other people’s food, influencers quotes and random memes, revitalise your mind with some natural feeds. Capture Happiness is a community I work with to promote the mental health benefits of taking and sharing photos. You can share your own images if you enjoy photography and are looking to get more involved or you can follow them on Instagram and Facebook to simply soak up the natural benefits of this network. Other places that we love to get my dose of nature are Justin Dax, Matt Maran and National Geographic.
We hope this offers you some ideas to bring nature into your life and work this week. And, of course, this doesn’t stop you from getting outside; it is just an added bonus.
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