There is a very good reason that one of the businesses that I co-own and run is called 'Essentio Health'...and that's because its focus is trying to break health and wellbeing back down to the essentials! Something that is at the very core of that is 'Nature'. The benefits of nature on our overall wellbeing are not just folk wisdom; they are well-documented in the scientific literature. As stress and burnout among workers reach critical levels, the call for innovative solutions has never been louder. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy's concern about the mental health of healthcare professionals underlines the urgency of this issue (Murthy, 2021).
Nature as a Respite for Workers
The therapeutic effects of nature are gaining recognition as a simple, cost-effective, and efficacious solution to combat burnout. A study in a Portland trauma centre found that nurses who took breaks in an outdoor garden experienced a significant reduction in emotional exhaustion (Sakallaris et al., 2016). This is corroborated by research that shows immersion in nature can lead to reductions in anxiety, depression, and mental fatigue (Bratman et al., 2019), which are key contributors to job burnout.
Understanding the Impact of Greenery
The concept of nature in workplace settings can be as simple as an outdoor garden or as subtle as a view of greenery from a window. The presence of plants, trees, and natural light can have profound effects on individuals. For instance, a study surveying hospital garden visitors found that 95% felt different after spending time in these green spaces, with a significant proportion of them being employees seeking mental and emotional respite (Marcus & Barnes, 1999).
Physiological Benefits of Nature Exposure
The physiological impacts of connecting with nature are measurable. Studies have shown that spending just a few minutes looking at green views can begin to reduce anger, anxiety, and pain, inducing relaxation through changes in blood pressure, muscle tension, and heart and brain electrical activity (Ulrich et al., 1991).
The Financial Case for Green Spaces in the Workplace
Beyond the health benefits, there's a financial incentive for workplaces to incorporate nature into their settings. A budget tool developed by Dr. Sean Murphy and Nature Sacred can estimate the cost of burnout and the value of nature-based interventions, making a compelling economic argument for their inclusion (Murphy & Nature Sacred, 2021).
Real-World Applications and Success Stories
Hospitals across the United States are already reaping the benefits of integrating nature into their care models. The Johns Hopkins Hospital Bayview Medical Center and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center are prime examples where green spaces have become essential for patient and caregiver wellbeing (Nature Sacred, 2021). Surely all workplaces could take this lead?
The evidence is clear: nature is not just a backdrop for relaxation; it's a vital component in the wellbeing of healthcare providers. With the healthcare sector facing unprecedented stress levels, it's time to embrace nature's role in fostering a healthier, happier workforce. As we continue to seek ways to support our health workers, let's turn to the green, leafy sanctuaries that offer a powerful antidote to burnout and stress.
Bratman, G. N., Anderson, C. B., Berman, M. G., Cochran, B., de Vries, S., Flanders, J., & Kahn, P. H. (2019). Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Science Advances, 5(7), eaax0903.
Marcus, C. C., & Barnes, M. (1999). Healing gardens: Therapeutic benefits and design recommendations. John Wiley & Sons.
Murphy, S., & Nature Sacred. (2021). Nature's budget tool. Nature Sacred.
Nature Sacred. (2021). Nature Sacred spaces. Nature Sacred.
Sakallaris, B. R., MacAllister, L., Voss, M., Smith, K., Jonas, W. B. (2016). Optimal healing environments. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 5(1), 6-12.
Ulrich, R. S., Simons, R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M. A., & Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11(3), 201-230.
Murthy, V. H. (2021). Confronting Health Worker Burnout and Well-being. Office of the Surgeon General.