Western Pennsylvania’s weather has gone from winter into summer over the past couple of weeks, bypassing what should have been spring. The abrupt change in temperatures made working outside a bit difficult; several people I know (myself included) suffered a bit of dehydration on our first truly warm day. Regardless, it has been great spending time outside without a jacket or sweatshirt.
People should be outside, preferably around nature in some form or another. There have been numerous studies pointing out the benefits of including green, growing things in one’s surroundings. Green spaces in communities have been shown to reduce crime rates, increase social interaction between neighbors, boost neighborhood appeal, lower stress, improve mood, and help students maintain attentiveness… among many other benefits.
I’ve experienced some of these benefits firsthand. After my colleague and mentor left for his new job, I’d often take a walk in the afternoons, taking a cup of tea with me as I hiked the trails of my office’s property. It helped sooth my rattled nerves after being thrown into a new job position filled with mountains of paperwork, meetings, phonecalls, emails, complaints, and fieldwork. And my friend absolutely hated doing paperwork, so trying to make sense of his non-existant filing methods became a massive nightmare by itself. Even having him just a phonecall away could not help me with that mess! Daily outdoor walks did not take away my feelings of betrayal, but they did give me the mental strength necessary to continue doing the work that had been dumped in my lap without proper warning.
Over the winter, I also discovered that working outside helped to boost my energy levels when I was dealing with mono. During the holidays, I had been stuck inside at my desk most days and barely managed to make it through until quitting time. On a few days I went home early. I would crash on the couch as soon as I got into the house, barely having the energy to eat dinner. After the holidays, I had more outdoor work, and it seemed that as soon as my work environment changed, I no longer felt like I was struggling to make it through the day. I still needed to be wary of overexerting myself, but I could accomplish more.
Although I’m mostly over having mono at this point, I still have bad days on occasion where exhaustion catches up with me. On those days, if I can get away from my desk and work outside, I do so. It makes the day go faster as well as keeps me energized and active. And it helps to keep my stress levels low as I work my way through the busiest part of my year (outside of that major festival in April that I mentioned in a previous post).
Most people aren’t lucky enough to have the amount of outdoor workspace that I have. They can’t always get outside when it would be beneficial to their physical and mental health. But there are still little things most people can do, such as keeping an office plant. (And there are plenty of non-flowering options, too, for those concerned about pollen allergies.) Just the presence of a green, growing thing that requires some small level of care can help boost your mood and improve the atmosphere. We spend a great percentage of our lifetimes working, so why not make your workspace as pleasant as possible?
If you can’t get a little of the natural world during working hours, then take a few moments before or after work to enjoy the green outdoors. Even if it’s just taking ten minutes to drink your morning coffee while standing beside a street-side tree, it can go a long way to improving your wellbeing.
So please take the time to get out in nature this spring; you’ll feel better for doing it!