Nature can positively affect employees. There is evidence that time spent outdoors boosts peoples’ well-being, and even five minutes of time in nature can improve mental health. Spending time outside benefits people because breathing fresh air increases oxygen intake and allows the lungs to work at their full capacity (Sandborn, 2018). Exposure to vitamin D from the sun boosts peoples’ moods, too. Time outside also can reduce employees’ chronic stress, physical and social stressors. These benefits are at their strongest when experiencing 21 to 30 minutes of nature time (Hunter, Gillespie, & Chen, 2019). Additionally, socializing in nature, whether taking walks outside with coworkers, having lunch outside, or socializing with friends, can lead to feelings of belonging, shared values, and positive relationships with others (Hartig, Mitchell, de Vries, & Frumkin, 2014).
Practicing mindfulness in nature can be quite simple. Employees can notice breathing patterns while on a walk, or any number of other ways of connecting with their mind and the nature around them. Specifically, sitting outside and paying attention only to what one’s senses experience is easily done. Simply find a comfortable spot to sit outside and spend some time focusing on one sense before moving on to the next, such as listening to the rustling of the trees or the birds, then focusing on the different smells in nature, then moving onto the next sense until each of the senses have been grounded and are connected to nature.
At a Glance
- Time outdoors improves physical and mental health
- Being in nature reduces stress, with the strongest benefit occurring when between 21 and 30 minutes are spent outdoors
- Time outside increases social interaction, gets more oxygen into the blood, and increases vitamin D levels
How to be mindful in nature (Pace, 2017):
- Walk outside and notice your steps on the ground
- Sit outside and notice your breath
- Sit outside and notice the sounds of nature around you
- Notice the colors, shapes, and smells of the nature around you
- Notice your movements as you do an outdoor activity like walking, running, kayaking, biking, gardening, or another activity
MSU In Action
Ideas to implement nature into the workplace could include outdoor staff meetings, retreats, walking meetings around campus, or group lunch meetings outdoors, like by Beaumont Tower or in the Judith DeLapa Perennial Garden. Walk along the reflexology path outside the Bott Nursing building and have employees focus on the textures underneath their feet or watch a bird, squirrel, or the water moving for a few minutes along the river trail.
Hartig, T., Mitchell, R., de Vries, S., & Frumkin, H. (2014). Nature and health. Annual Review of Public Health, 35, 207-228. https://doi-org.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-032013-182443
Hunter, M. R., Gillespie, B. W., & Chen, S. (2019). Urban nature experiences reduce stress in the context of daily life based on salivary biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722
Pace, K. (2017, April 13). Nature provides many lessons that connect to our mindfulness practice. Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/nature_provides_many_lessons_that_connect_to_our_mindfulness_practice
Sandborn, D. (2018, January 5). Nature in the winter is good for your mental health. Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/nature_is_good_for_your_mental_health