4 Ways Spending Time Outdoors Will Give You Mental Clarity In The Office

by Robert Parmer
Sergey Filimonov

June is National Great Outdoors Month, which gives us all a reason to dust off our camping gear and plan an outdoor adventure. Whether it's an elaborate camping trip with friends or a simple hike, there are so many reasons for breaking the monotony of engulfing city life.

Getting Outdoors Equates to Increased Mental Clarity.

Ditching blank-wall work environments has significant promise in keeping our thought spaces clear of distractions and unwanted speed bumps. This can also go further than the workplace and create a channel of improved focus all round.

A study conducted by Harvard Business Review highlights this idea. In this study, a team of researchers asked 150 test subjects to complete a tedious exercise. This involved hitting specific keystrokes on a keyboard whenever certain numbers popped up on the screen in front of them.

The experiment was conducted for five minutes and then those involved were given a 40-second break. During this break, one half of the participants watched a bleak screensaver that showed a grey concrete room. The other half watched a screensaver of scenery filled with an abundantly green landscape.

Then the two groups of people returned to the boring task. For those who watched the concrete room, their accuracy and speed fell by eight percent. By contrast, the group who saw the outdoorsy scene during their brief break had consistently raised levels of concentration by about six percent.

Kate Lee, a researcher for the study elaborates,

Our findings suggest that engaging in these green micro breaks -- taking time to look at nature through the window, on a walk outside or even on a screen saver -- can be really helpful for improving attention and performance in the workplace.

Better Mental Health, Lower Stress.

The chaos of urban environments can cause a lot of stress and may even wear on our mental health.

For many people, the most relaxing way to unwind is to leave busy city lifestyles behind and enjoy the great outdoors in a meditative fashion. It's easy to unwind in a place where noisy traffic, the sounds of construction and people in general aren't overwhelming.

study, conducted by scientists at Chiba University in Japan, pinpoints the correlation between those who appreciate nature and overall increased happiness and healthiness. This study monitored the effects of a Japanese practice known as "Shinrin-yoku," which means forest-bathing.

It involved field experiments in 24 forests across Japan, with 280 participants in total. In each experiment, the scientists would send one half of the participants into the woods and the other half into a city. The next day, those who spent time in the woods would be sent into a city and vice versa.

At the end of it all, the scientists found those who spent their day in forests had "lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure."

In other words, participants were decidedly less stressed when they were in nature as opposed to an urban environment. So, if you're feeling bummed or overwhelmed, go for a walk in the woods, it will boost your mood.

Furthermore, working in an environment that is somewhat disconnected from society can boost productivity. This is especially relevant in cases where remote work is an option.

Experiment with bringing a laptop to a quiet park or meadow and work from there. It's fair to say that in most cases, this will surely skyrocket productivity.

Increased Self-Care Through Outdoor Experiences.

One of the most beneficial things about making time for the great outdoors is that it can also serve as a gentle reminder to take care of ourselves in general.

When we get back from a hike or a day of hanging out in a place that's disconnected from city life, it's common to feel empowered and ready to tackle life's challenges.

This mindset can evolve into addressing more of our personal needs. I find that when I wake up early and go on a hike for a couple of hours, I start to take charge of my own time and my own needs in new ways. It's important to make sure we don't sweep our own needs under the rug.

A resource by Case Western University Online gives the perfect definition of self-care:

Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, then we can give from our surplus, our abundance.

This definition is relevant to everyone. We all must put our needs first and at times, all we may need is a literal breath of fresh air. Spending time in the great outdoors allows for this and alleviates confused thought patterns. It's amazing how simply clearing our heads in nature can remind us to take care of ourselves.

Integrating the Outdoors Into Our Spaces.

Getting out into nature on the regular isn't always totally feasible.

For those who live in the depths of a massive city, it can be much more difficult to leave the metropolis for more bucolic surroundings. This is especially true for someone who doesn't own a car and must travel several hours to leave city limits. But there's always a compromise.

Consider including elements of the great outdoors into homes and places of work. Small plants and terrariums can liven up any stale cubicle or desk. And inducing a variety of air purifying house plants in a home or place of work not only relieves city-induced stress, it can also combat seasonal depression.

If They Can Do This, Anyone Can.

But where can one find inspiration to get outdoors?

Check out partners Stefanie Payne and Jonathan Irish. Together they went on a life-changing camping/road trip which many have deemed the "greatest US road trip." They completed something many people won't experience over the course of their entire lives by visiting all 59 national parks in only a year; that's more than one national park a week!

So, if that's possible, it's truly possible for anyone to reap the benefits of celebrating National Great Outdoors Month. Happy trekking!