I recently came upon an article in the Harvard Business Review called “Why You Should Tell Your Team to Take a Break and Go Outside”. The article discusses the concept of “nature-deficit disorder” coined by Richard Louv, author of Nature Principal. He argues that nature-deficit disorder harms us mentally, spiritually and physically as we walk around our high-tech, low-nature, concrete and corporate worlds. Companies such as Google are using biophilia (physical connection of nature and life) as a primary component of their building design. Studies have shown that exposure to green spaces can not only reduce stress, anxiety and depression, but also improve overall physical health. Natural environments reduce the release of cortisol, a chemical in our brains that is directly related to increased heart rate and blood pressure. The Nature Fix by Florence Williams explains that an increasingly common practice in East Asian countries is called “forest bathing”, supported by the belief that natural immersion has extensive psychological and physical health benefits. These benefits translate into real dollar and cents when you take into consideration that happiness and health are found to be directly correlated to a company’s success in several studies. As a business minor looking at successful office environments for every sector of work, this is a fascinating find.
The administrative building of Ohio Wildlife Center is located on a sprawling campus of natural forest and wetlands. There are short hiking trails and lush nature in all of its glory. It’s about a 4 minute walk from the satellite parking lot to the office building and I think this brief moment of trees and birds before and after my work day change my mental state completely. In my six weeks here I have noticed a significant difference in my own stress levels. I look outside the office windows and see bright green leaves fluttering against the glass. I look out of the rear of the building onto multiple bird feeders, humming with life and energy. I walk outside and am enveloped in green. I share this because I think it’s important for everyone whether you work at a wildlife center or not– most likely not. We live in a society with increasing noise, distractions, chaos and rates of anxiety disorders. The work that we do here at Ohio Wildlife Center is a break from all of that and possibly an answer to many of the problems my generation is facing. While I will always love the buzz and possibilities of city living, preserving and protecting our green spaces and the wildlife within them can no longer be ignored. It’s our own happiness at stake.
Learn more about biophilia here from one of my favorite people E.O. Wilson: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/conversation-eo-wilson.html