How Nature Increases Productivity
Did you know nine in ten Canadians say they are happier when they spend time in nature? The benefits of the Great Outdoors have been widely studied and reported, from increased immune system to decreased stress levels to improved mood.
But if we know nature makes us happier and healthier – why are we still spending so much time confined inside? In fact, as Canadians we spend about 90 per cent of our time indoors (and some estimates are even higher)! One of the most common barriers to getting outside cited by Canadians is a lack of time. But for those of us caught up in the hustle and bustle, it’s important to remember that time spent in nature is a worthwhile investment – not only to make us happier but also more productive.
Time in Nature Gives You Time
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people’s homes have been working overtime as offices, classrooms, gyms and even social spaces for virtual get-togethers. It’s hard not to feel a sense of monotony without a change of scenery or clear delineations between the personal and professional. And when we feel trapped or uninspired, one of the first aspects of life to suffer is our productivity.
Fortunately, even brief time spent outside can help refresh your mind and make you more efficient. Thanks to a change of stimulus and an increase of oxygen, getting fresh air can actually improve brain function. Time in nature has been linked to better short-term memory and attention restoration, and several studies have found that youth with ADHD experienced improved concentration after being outside.
And the benefits don’t stop there. Getting outside during your workday has also been linked to enhanced creativity and deeper sleep – two key factors that impact our ability to work productively. For youth, exposure to natural spaces has been found to help protect emotional well-being – again, an essential component for an enjoyable and effective day at school.
Scientists haven’t been able to say exactly why time outside makes us happier and more productive, but some have theorized that the benefits of nature are wired into us from our days as hunter-gatherers. And the good news is that you don’t have to hike a mountain to reap these benefits. Much of the research around the perks of the outdoors shows that even a twenty-minute stroll through your neighbourhood can help.
So when you feel like a never-ending to-do list is keeping you inside, remember that time in nature can actually save you time by reducing some of the stress and brain fog that slows us down. Committing to even a short walk, time in a local park or some fun gardening work can add quality as well as quantity to our hours.