There is mounting evidence that spending time in nature makes us healthier and happier. It’s something many people feel instinctively. But we’re busy at work, distracted by technology and often live in urban environments far from wild spaces. What happens if we make time for an hour outside each day? Does it matter where we go, and what’s the value of shoehorning outside time into a busy work schedule?
There are some obvious benefits to going outside. You’ll have to stand up and move, which is beneficial if most of your day involves sitting in front of a screen. Research shows short breaks can boost engagement at work, and a quick break in natural light will deliver a shot of vitamin D.
The kind of open-air environment you seek out matters too: green and blue spaces trump busy city streets. “Generally the research tells us that when people are exposed to the natural environment and natural features, they tend to have a reduced stress response. When you are out in nature you have lower blood pressure, better heart rate variability, better mood,” says Lisa Nisbet, Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at Canada’s Trent University.
“There’s also a lot of work on the psychological benefits of being in nature - on wellbeing and on cognitive functioning. In general, people are happier in nature. Happiness is a very broad concept and so we measure things like positive and negative emotions, people’s sense of vitality and being energised and also how satisfied they are with life,” she says. “When people are immersed in natural places, even in urban nature, people tend to have more positive emotions and vitality than when they are indoors.”
Compiled by SG