Vigor, enthusiasm, positive emotions, and calm energy are characteristics of “vitality,” and have been associated with improved health outcomes and stress management.
The subjective experience of “vitality” can be increased being outside, particularly in a natural environment, according to by University of Rochester’s Richard Ryan and Louis Mistretta , Netta Weinstein, now of University of Essex, McGill’s Jessey Bernstein and Kirk Warren Brown of Virginia Commonwealth University with Concordia’s Marylène Gagné.
The team asked volunteers to complete surveys and diaries, in addition to participating in experiments comparing reactions to being outdoors vs indoors during physical activity and viewing nature scenes vs buildings on volunteers’ subjective “vitality.”
These five studies suggest the positive impact of being outdoors and around natural elements on subjective vitality, even when the effects of physical activities or social interactions are controlled.
Most office workers can attest to the team’s findings, that visiting nature has restorative, energizing effects, and enables a fresh perspective on challenges.
Nevertheless, most office workers have difficulty leaving work in leaving climate-controlled environments for much-needed breaks.
Weinstein and Ryan extended these findings with University of Essex’s Andrew Przybylski, and found that besides providing “vitality”, energy, and stress management, volunteers who were “immersed in natural settings” reported more caring, generous attitudes toward others.
They valued their aspirations to help and connect with others and make generous decisions more than self-interested aspirations for financial success and admiration.
Weinstein and team suggested that viewing and experiencing nature and natural settings increases individuals’ sense of personal autonomy to pursue interests while reducing pressures, fears, and social expectations.
These studies suggest the importance of scheduled outdoor breaks from work activities, and thoughtful urban planning that incorporates green spaces and natural environments: “…full contact with nature can have humanizing effects….to the extent our links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with each other.”
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