Nature activities for 20 minutes a day can boost mood and productivity

Whether you’re working from home or at your desk in the office, you probably won’t be spending enough time in nature.

But according to Mark Berman, associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, being outside for just under an hour makes you more likely to feel happy, get things done, and retain memories. We investigated the effects of nature on psychological health.

“A 50-minute walk in nature can improve alertness and concentration. [and] Working memory is reduced by about 20%,” says Berman.

“Many people have found great mood benefits from taking a walk in nature. They are happier, less depressed and more energetic.”

Also, if you can’t be outside for long periods of time, we recommend aiming for at least 20 minutes a day and at least 2 hours a week. Still, he says the more time spent in nature, the better.

It’s like an investment. Spending 20-30 minutes in nature can be more productive than just working.

Mark Berman

Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Chicago

Activities you can do while breathing in the fresh air include:

  • brisk walking
  • gardening
  • Visit the quiet tree-lined streets of your city

You don’t even have to be outside to enjoy nature’s bounty

To get the most out of nature, you really have to be outdoors. But these activities have similar effects on mental health and productivity, Berman adds.

  • look at pictures of nature
  • Hear the sounds of nature, such as the ocean or the rainforest
  • Watch videos of natural habitats
  • surrounded by plants
  • See architecture that mimics natural patterns

A few minutes away from work can actually boost your productivity

While it might seem like getting away from your desk and spending time in nature doing less work each day, it can actually backfire, Berman says.

“It’s kind of an investment. Spending that 20 to 30 minutes in nature can be more productive than just doing it. Even if you lose that time in nature, You might be able to make up for it by being more productive,” he points out.

Consider eating lunch outdoors. Especially if this is the only time you can put this on your calendar while the sun is still out.

“I think what our research is trying to say is that nature is a necessity, not a comfort,” Berman says. “Just like we need clean air and clean water.” So we have to have it.”

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