If you are hardworking and committed to your job, eating lunch in the office may seem like the right move. But a break — especially if you can finagle some time outside, ideally in a park — can do wonders for your stress level, thinking, and creativity.
Though nature is most restorative in large doses — a weekend in the country, say — even a little bit of green is better than none at all. By resigning yourself to eat lunch at your desk, you may actually be hurting, rather than helping, your work.
Aim for a quick picnic instead.
Nature Helps Relieve Stress
Tensed and stressed? Head for the trees. One study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent that time in the city.
In another study, researchers found a decrease in both heart rate and levels of cortisol in subjects in the forest when compared to those in the city. “Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy,” they concluded.
Among office workers, even the view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.
Nature Sharpens Thinking And Boosts Creativity
“Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost.” That’s the dramatic opening to a 2008 paper describing the promise of so-called “nature therapy” — or, as a non-academic might call it, “time outside.”
When college students were asked to repeat sequences of numbers back to the researchers, they were much more accurate after a walk in nature. This finding built on previous research that showed how nature can restore attention and memory.
Another study found that people immersed in nature for four days — significantly more time than a lunchtime walk in the park — boosted their performance on a creative problem-solving test by 50%. While the research suggests the possibility of a positive relationship between creative thinking and the outdoors, it wasn’t enough to determine whether the effects were due to “increased exposure to nature, decreased exposure to technology, or other factors.”
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