Let the Outdoors Help You Reduce Work Stress
Studies suggest that most people aren’t all that happy when they’re at work. The reasons are many: bad bosses, difficult relationships, poor pay, lack of security, and of course, the work itself. One study suggests that whether or not people like their jobs, they’re happiest when they’re on vacation, spending time with friends, or making or listening to music. And they’re especially happy when they’re outside, enjoying nature.
When I read about studies like these, I can’t help but think, “Wait a minute!” It may be that many people are happy, or even happiest, when they’re outside. But this finding doesn’t apply to everyone. I know, because my husband is one of them. He can’t take hot weather and burns easily in the sun. If there’s a bee in the vicinity looking to sting someone, it’ll find him. Poison ivy also knows where he is. Nature is not his favorite!
Still, for most people, there may be a valid case. Studies have found that natural environments can promote positive emotions and heighten physical and mental energy. In fact, the Japanese have something called forest bathing, which means being in the presence of trees. Forest bathing has been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system, reduce the production of stress hormones, and in general improve feelings of well-being.
But being with the trees doesn’t mean huffing and puffing uphill. It doesn’t mean rushing from Point A to Point B. And it definitely doesn’t mean getting in your ten thousand steps per day. All those activities are fine. But the idea of being with the trees is to relax among the trees, rather than trying to accomplish anything or reach a certain goal.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t work in forest environments, so being with the trees takes some effort and may be restricted to the weekend or evening. But if you work in the country or near a mountain, or even in a campus environment, there may be some semblance of nature not far from your door. If so, when you take a break, a bit of wandering around that semblance of nature may feel restorative. Even if you work in a corporate jungle, taking a walk outside may help to clear your head and reenergize you.
Granted, in some locations, you’re subject to bad weather, which can limit your outdoorsiness. But we’re not talking about spending weeks walking Antarctica alone. Just go outside briefly, take a short walk, commune with the trees if you’re able, and get back to work. Forest bathing: try it!