As little as 40 seconds spent looking at a green view can help sustain your interest and attention during your working day.
According to University of Melbourne research findings published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology (Volume 42), taking a micro-break to look at a pleasant view of living plants has a powerful effect on restoring your attention while relaxing your brain.
However, looking out over concrete roofs or walls has no measurable restorative effect.
Sustained attention is crucial in daily life and underlies successful cognitive functioning. Based on attention restoration theory, the Melbourne University research team proposed micro-breaks spent viewing a city scene with a living green roof and flowers would boost sustained attention.
They compared the effects of viewing two different city scenes on the sustained attention of 150 university students'. All participants completed a given task to establish a baseline. They were randomly assigned to view either a roof planted with greenery and flowers or a bare concrete roof, and then completed the original task again.
Participants who had briefly viewed the green roof made significantly lower errors, were less distracted and showed a more consistent response to the task compared to participants who viewed the concrete roof.
The researchers found there were boosts to sub-cortical arousal and cortical attention control for those who had viewed the green roof. Their finding supports other research showing the sound of running water and forest smells, as well as exposure to nature, not only improves people’s subjective measures of stress but also physiological factors like heart rate and blood pressure.
As our working hours and commuting times in stressful conditions increase, we are losing touch with the restorative power of nature. A positive way to redress this is to bring nature into the workplace to promote wellbeing and happiness. You could try planting a living green wall, having indoor plants – even small indoor trees, bunches of fresh flowers, or even screensavers or posters with beautiful, natural scenes. You might also be able to play background music of natural sounds like birds singing or a waterfall running.
If that is impossible, maybe there is somewhere you can go for a lunchtime walk that takes you past some trees or plants, a water fountain or a wide view of the open sky.
The benefits of the inclusion of indoor plants and/or views of greenery are supported by evidence showing that exposure to nature results in decreased heart rate, blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol.
Workplace greenery also improves perceptions of air quality, concentration, satisfaction and productivity.
Read more about the University of Melbourne study here:
YouTube is a great resource for birdsong videos. Here is a link to 11 hours of fabulous birdsong:
This link is to relaxing water sounds in the rainforest: