January: Turning Over a New Leaf In the New Year

Harness the Power of Nature to Make Your New Year Better
By Jo Watson Hackl

What if sticking to just one New Year’s resolution could help make you healthier, happier, and more productive the whole new year long? Just for one week, try incorporating nature into your day and notice the difference. The changes you see are likely to motivate you to make spending time in nature part of your year-round routine. Below are a few reasons why, six ideas to get you started, and resources to help you along the way. 

Why should I spend more time in nature?
Simply put, our bodies are designed to respond to the natural environment. Just think of the energizing effect of morning sunlight, how a stroll as dusk begins to fall helps you unwind at the end of a busy day, and the peaceful feeling that comes over you in a forested setting. A recent Harvard Medical School Health Publication described a number of study results supporting benefits of spending time with nature. These include: an increase in Vitamin D levels, an increase in exercise, improvement in mood, improvement in concentration, and faster healing.  A University of Michigan study found that walking in the park or viewing photos of nature can help significantly improve attention span and memory. As busy professionals working under deadlines, we can all use these benefits.   

Six Easy Ways to Incorporate Nature into Your Day
A few simple changes can help make nature more a part of your day. Below are a few ideas: 

  1. Wake up with the Sun. As the days start to lengthen, let the natural light of morning help wake you up and energize you for the start of your day. Read more here.
  2. If possible, arrange your desk so that you have a view of a window. According to a study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, people working in an office with more light exposure slept longer, got better sleep quality, and had more physical activity and a better quality of life compared to those with less light exposure. For more details, read Description of Results of Northwestern Medicine and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Study.
  3. Try walking meetings to get out of the office and connect with your colleagues in a natural setting. Read more about walking meetings here.
  4. Wind down outside after a long day at work. Spending time outdoors can not only help you, but can help your children also. The benefits to children of time in nature in terms of attention, focus, and healthy physical and emotional development are all documented in Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2008). Here’s a link to find this book at an independent bookstore near you.  
  5. Bring nature indoors with a fresh flower arrangement on your desk. Read more at Weathering Winter with a Flower Arrangement a Day
  6. Plan your weekend around outdoor activities. Visit a South Carolina State Park. Take a class to build your outdoor skills. One series I’ve taken (and love): Earthskillsllc. Try a new outdoor sport such as kayaking or canoeing.  A list of SC water trails can be found here.

As the days grow longer in the new year, this creates even more opportunity to spend extra time outdoors. I hope to see my fellow South Carolina attorneys in the great outdoors.  
Jo Watson Hackl is a corporate attorney at Wyche, P.A. She is so convinced of the importance of spending time in nature that she launched a free website resource, Outdoorosity.org to provide information and inspiration about the outdoors