Being outside is necessary for good overall health. When we commune with nature, body processes change, including how our brain, heart and gut function. For people living in an urban jungle, surrounded by glass, asphalt and concrete, the impact of abstaining from nature can be profound.
Neuroscience has shown the adverse effects of living in a city. While city life isn’t ALL bad, and some people prefer it, you need to take time to recharge yourself by being outdoors, away from pollution, smog, round-the-clock lighting & the sounds of traffic.
Researchers have long touted the positive effects of being in nature. Studies from the late 70s found going to a natural environment strengthens the right hemisphere while restoring harmony to brain functions over the entire organ.1
Natural spaces and public parks are critical in urban settings, not only to support diversity and provide a habitat for plants, fungi, animals and other wildlife but to create an environment for the promotion of good health and wellbeing. More recent studies have shown that being in contact with nature can:2
- Improve productivity and concentration
- Give people a more positive outlook
- Increase life satisfaction
- Help recover from mental fatigue
Besides the mental and physical effects of being outdoors in nature, it can also be a source of inspiration. Taking design ideas directly from nature is often called bioinspiration or biomimicry. But even more than that, nature offers you an opportunity to reset your brain to become more innovative, a better collaborator and increase performance throughout your organisation.
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.
A TREE A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY
But, being away from nature has an impact on your entire being and many body systems rely on spending time outside, including:
- Skin: When ultraviolet light rays hit our skin, our bodies produce Vitamin D. This fat-soluble vitamin is not readily available in many foods, and it promotes calcium absorption in the gut. In this case, too much direct sun is not a good thing, so be sure to use sunscreen. Five to thirty minutes of exposure two or more times a week is usually enough to maintain Vitamin D levels.3
- Heart: One of the main benefits of spending time outside is engaging in exercise, even if you’re simply walking around. Heart disease and other chronic conditions are often linked to low amounts of physical activity. In some cases, exercise is effective enough to replace certain heart medications.4
- Gut: Diet and other environmental factors play a large role in our gut microbiota, which can impact our overall health. An estimated 100 trillion microbes are living in the gastrointestinal tract, and a thriving and diverse population contribute to continued good health. A lack of exercise can influence shifts in microbe populations.5
- Brain: Our brains are easily fatigued, and when you go outside and enjoy beautiful, natural surroundings, your mental performance improves. One scientist found that participants scored 50% better on problem-solving tasks after spending three days backpacking in the wilderness.6
HOW TO DROP IT ALL AND GET AWAY
The secret is, just make it happen. You’ll always have more conference calls to make, emails to respond to or reports to complete. Put yourself first and recognise how valuable your mental, physical and emotional health are.
Your organisation won’t collapse if you’re gone for a weekend, or even a week or two. Find people you trust to put in charge, and then walk away. Give others a chance to shine and give yourself a chance to reset and rest.
As a leader, your interactions with those around you, from clients to board members to your family members, are influenced by your wellbeing. If you’re feeling down, depressed, or anxious, your collaborations with others will be shadowed with these emotions.
FINDING A LEADERSHIP MODEL THAT SUPPORTS
Leadership models come and go like any other fad or flavour of the month. If you’re ready to jump off the “current trend” bandwagon and instead use a leadership method which supports the whole body, from the brain down, check out the i4 Neuroleader Programs. You can learn how to transform your brain to become a happier, more productive, more inspiring person.
1. Furnass B. Health Values. In: Messer J & Mosley JG (eds). The Value of National Parks to the Community: Values and Ways of Improving the Contribution of Australian National Parks to the Community. University of Sydney, Australia Conservation Foundation. 1979; 60-69.
2. Cecily Maller, Mardie Townsend, Anita Pryor, Peter Brown, Lawrence St Leger; Health Promotion International. 2016; 21(1); 45-54.
3. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin D. USA.gov. 2018.
4. Levine D. Can Nature Help You Deal With Heart Disease? U.S. News & World Report. 2018.
5. Conlon MA, Bird AR. The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health. Nutrients. 2014;7(1):17-44. doi:10.3390/nu7010017
6. Williams F. This Is Your Brain on Nature. National Geographic. 2016.