I’ve been thinking a lot about a Wall Street Journal article I read recently called, “Is Two Hours Outdoors The New 10,000 Steps?”
The piece chronicles an urgent need for us to take care of ourselves better in light of the physical and emotional toll of COVID-19. One of most promising prescriptions for wellness is to spend more time in nature.
Scientific research strongly suggests we greatly benefit from getting outdoors. We can improve our health and well-being. We can live longer. We can have more strength to do the things we want to do.
Here are just a few examples:
- Spending time in the woods for a “forest bath” can help lower our heart rate, blood pressure and level of stress so we can experience less anxiety, depression and fatigue.
- Time among the trees can also decrease inflammation, one of the loudest buzzword-causes of chronic disease.
- We are more likely to report feeling good both mentally and physically when we spend two hours or more a week in nature.
- Even a 45-minute walk outside can elevate mood, spark creativity, improve our working memory.
It’s remarkable, isn’t it? And to think so many of us choose to spend an average of eleven or more hours a day indoors with our heads figuratively inside a much smaller box where we mindlessly consume media.
A Fresh Perspective on Being a Leader and a Better Person
I think being in nature provides perspective – something every leader, or leader in the making, needs.
The simplest way to look at it is to think in terms of your general state of being. Imagine what it would be like to spend your day in a box with no windows, no artwork, no greenery of any kind. Sit with that image for a bit. How are you feeling in there? What’s coming up? Claustrophobia, anxiety, impatience, discomfort, anger after a while, perhaps?
Now visualize yourself walking through the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been, like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Redwood Forest, the British Virgin Islands, Yellowstone Park, New Zealand. What are you feeling now? Peace, awe, oneness with nature, contentment, joy?
That’s the magic of nature in action.
Despite the impact of nature on humans, work has often forced people into similar boxes of cities or tight offices with little access to the expansive outdoors.
It’s no wonder Amazon built Amazon Spheres at the headquarters campus in the heart of Seattle, Washington. It’s where employees work and take breaks while spending time in nature. Walking through the conservatories that are three to four stories tall, they’re surrounded by 40,000 plants from 50 countries.
How can we keep nature’s goodness in our lives, even when many of us eventually have to return to that box, especially in urban areas with little green space? How can we tap into nature to be a better leader and a better person?
We can start by helping others see the benefits of getting outdoors. We can figure out ways to bring the outdoors inside. We can also commit to spending time in nature every day or consider moving to a place where we can. It’s that important.