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Using Nature to Battle Burnout

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

The American Psychological Association defines burnout as "physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes towards oneself or others." It's more common than you might think - a study connected by Mental Health Research in Canada found that 35% of working Canadians experienced burnout symptoms. Since burnout accumulates cumulatively, it can sneak up on you faster than you are able to shake it off; it's an insidious little thing, and others might notice it in you before you notice it in yourself.

Fortunately, there's a free and readily available weapon to help beat burnout -- the great outdoors. The best part about it is, that even casual, ambient exposure to nature can help fight burnout. A workplace study discovered that hospitals with a better view of outdoor green spaces were positively linked with reducing psychological stresses of nurses that worked in them, and suggested that work and break areas be structured to include gardens and outdoor visibility.

Even simulated nature (grab that VR headset) was found to have conferred benefits in another study. The evidence seems pretty clear in that exposure to any kind of nature, synthetic or not, can help combat burnout. The only question at this point is how to fit it into your workday.

Fortunately, there are a ton of great both low and high-impact ways to get on top of the problem. For example, you can seek out green areas around your home or office. Just the act of getting outside and getting fresh air will do you a lot of good, but if there are any forest trails or parks nearby, those are even better. You can also consider looking up the nearest nature centre; even in highly structured urban environments, you might be able to find little areas of nature maintained by volunteers that you can rest in for a while.

Don't forget to green up your workspace, either -- plants, whether living or artificial, can help beat back the dull grays of a cubicle wall. You can also listen to nature sounds like running water or chirping birds, much of which is readily available on YouTube. In your off time, also consider activities like camping or hiking to get a mega-dose of nature while having a blast at the same time.

Whether you want to chip away at burnout when you have little pockets of free time or want to tackle it all at once, it's clear there are a lot of ways to use nature to fight it.


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