Many people make New Year’s Resolutions. How about adding a couple of good ones mid-year? At DWM, we’re focused on both your financial and personal well-being. Therefore, we’d like to suggest you consider two resolutions-spending more time in nature and less time sitting. Each can provide huge rewards for you and your family.
Spending More Time in Nature. In May of 2013, more than 10,000 Canadians participated in a 30×30 Nature Challenge spending 30 minutes in nature, every day, for 30 days. The impact on the participants was:
- Increased sense of well-being
- More energy
- Feelings of stress and negativity were reduced
- Less sleep disturbances
- Felt more productive on the job
- Felt happier
Other benefits from more time in nature can include increased creativity, lower risk of cancer and other diseases, improved immunity, more spiritual benefits and less depression.
There are some scientific reasons these occur:
- Exposure to plants and parks provides increased immunity. One reason is the existence of the chemical phytoncides which plants emit to protect themselves from rotting and insects and which benefits humans. In Japan, there is therapeutic practice called “forest bathing.” These regular forest walkers have been shown to exhibit lower concentrations of cortisol (a stress hormone), lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure.
- Sunlight is beneficial. When sunlight hits your skin, it starts a process to create and activate Vitamin D. This vitamin helps to lower the risk of osteoporosis, cancer, and heart attacks. Light skinned individuals need about 10 minutes of sunlight each day, while dark skinned individuals may need 15 to 20 minutes.
- Studies show that spending just 20 minutes in vegetation-rich nature improves vitality.
- A study done in 2012 revealed that a group of backpackers were 50% more creative after four days on a hiking trail.
- Research demonstrated that performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20% after participants took a pause for a walk through an arboretum.
- Green is good. If you live near a green space, you’re less likely to be depressed. German researchers in 2012 concluded that simply focusing on a green cube for a few seconds can trigger greater creativity than cubes of other colors.
Sitting Less. There was a time when standing desks were a curiosity; used by folks like Hemingway, Dickens and Rumsfeld. Now research has shown that the cumulative impact of sitting all day for years is associated with increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Sitting has become the new “smoking.”
One study showed that men who sit six hours or more a day have an overall death rate 20% higher than men who sit for three hours or less. For women, it’s 40%. And, think of this: a gym workout won’t cancel out the effects of sitting for long hours. When you sit in your chair, in the office or at home, your metabolism drops to 1/3 of the rate when you are walking. Standing burns about 50 calories more per hour than sitting. The American Cancer Society’s recent report showed that people who stand for at least a quarter of the day reduce their chances of becoming obese.
Many of you know that I developed “laptopitis” five years ago. I was hunched over my laptop for long hours a day for 3 weeks straight on client projects. My back and my body didn’t like it one bit and after seeing my general practitioner, a chiropractor, having an MRI and few other diagnostics, the basic solution was that I needed to stop sitting and get my working space in order. I bought a desk that moves up and down. I changed my monitors so they were eye-level. I bought an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. These days, I stand most of the day and love it. In fact, Ginny and Sam in Charleston are now part of the “standing generation.” Both have desks that move up and down and we all use gel mats and wear comfortable shoes. My wife Elise has converted her home office space to allow her to stand and view her monitor at eye level when she is working.
Hopefully, many of you will take or have already taken a vacation this summer. Think about how good you will feel or have felt while on vacation as you are next to nature, active and not sitting. By incorporating some of the ideas above you can extend that “vacation high” when you get home by spending more time in nature and sitting less. It should increase your feeling of well-being, which will make you and us very happy.