Spending time in nature has a positive effect on your work life
by Olivia Köhler
We are currently living in unusual times. Over the last year and a half, we were forced to slow down and limit our options for spending our free time. Many of us therefore rediscovered nature as a space of well-being. The parks, meadows, forests and beaches right in front of our doorsteps became places of escape and longing.
Many of us felt refreshed and restored again after spending time outdoors. It gave us a haven of peace outside of everyday life. More and more studies are proving that experiencing nature promotes our physical and mental well-being.
Nature as therapy
The healing power of the forest has been scientifically researched since the 1980s. In Japan, a special term was coined for it, “shinrin-yoku”, which means “forest bathing” or “immersion in the forest.” This practice is recognise there as a therapeutic treatment. A 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, for example, found that participants who walked in a forest had lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol (a.k.a. the stress hormone) afterwards than those who strolled through a city environment.
Lakes and seas have a similar effect on our health. Water environments leave a power-ful imprint in our bodies and minds. Just looking at them is a multi-sensory, visually stimulating experience, with a thousand shades of blue in constant movement. Wave-exposed coastlines release negative ions believed to alter our biochemistry, lighten our mood, and relieve stress. The smells and sounds of water all promote our sense of well-being.
As we can see, experiencing nature has many positive effects on us. It functions as an anti-stress factor and a mood lifter: you’ll have more positive thoughts after being outdoors and you’ll benefit from a strengthened immune system and an increased ability to concentrate. These and many other effects are all scientifically proven.
When we look to indigenous peoples, we can learn that nature provides even more than that already important well-being. During important events, upheavals, questions or times of crisis, an individual may leave their group and spend a few days alone in nature to gather themself, find balance and return to the community with a solution. This example shows that a living, interconnected relationship between humans and our natural space are deeply rooted in our history. It isn’t surprising that the sound of water seems to speak to you sometimes, or that the wind consciously interrupts you. Perhaps you have even experienced this while standing on the top of a mountain or observing tracks in the sand: it triggers deep memories, emotions and whole stories that unfold within you.
These are examples of what one can experience in and with nature. The deep connection with nature enlivens us as humans and provides an incredible space to get in contact with ourselves and our inner nature. The field of systemic nature therapy studies exactly this: the human being within the natural space. It assumes that our surroun-ding space affects how we feel, think and act.
The classic systemic approach — the most widespread and practiced therapy and counseling approach besides psychoanalysis and behavioral therapy — considers the human being in interaction with their social constellations. Meanwhile, in systemic nature therapy, interaction and communication are not exclusively linked to human systems, but also include elements of nature and the manmade world in the constellation of a being.
Experience Nature in full
To experience nature as a living counterpart, go outside for a bit and really try to be mindful of what is around you. Just be in the space, be present and observe. This way you can have an authentic, resonating experience. It’s about following different rules of the game, something we rarely do.
If you manage that, a space is created for new perceptions, attentiveness and strength. You become more familiar with your body, you train the attention of your psyche and are encouraged to encounter the soul space. This way, you can find answers to all the questions that you might carry. It’s all about accessing your intuition, the inner wisdom and strength you all already have within you, which can help you make decisions and gain clarity. This strengthens self-healing, belonging, physical and emotional resilience.
All too often, in the midst of constant demands and a stimulus overload, our fast-paced, tech-savvy lives prevent us from hearing this call to be in and with nature. We have distanced ourselves from nature — we have alienated ourselves from it.
Humans have lived in a natural environment for millions of years. For at least 10,000 generations, we lived in small family groups in nature. For 500 generations, we cultivated fields and bred animals. Only about 200 years ago did this change. That’s why we still have such a deep longing to being outdoors.
Bring it close to you
Thus, it is more important than ever for us to make room for this – notably in companies as part of employee health. Being in nature as a team promotes positive effects on everyone’s physical and mental well-being. On top of that, it opens a space for connecting with oneself and therefore with a team on a whole different level. We are living and working in times where collaboration and communication are key. There is something magical about being truly present with someone in nature, sharing experiences and creating a strong foundation to work together and maintain appreciative communication.
We can also learn from nature in our work life. It doesn’t matter if you are in the forest, on the beach or in the company garden together. Just observe how nature is always adapting to change, all without planning or analyzing. Nature is geared towards diversity. It can immediately react flexibly and adequately to new things. Humans, on the other hand, try to secure what is uncertain through planning and predictions. We want to reduce complexity, and this leads us towards fatal monotony: the same ways of thinking, rigid processes, diminished diversity and no room for spontaneity and chance. That’s exactly what nature teaches us: to be truly agile, you have to develop diversely, here and now, in order to conquer the new with curiosity.
So stay curious and go explore — within your company, within your team and outdoors!