What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Hit the snooze button? Brush your teeth? Get some coffee? Check social media? Go to the gym?
A survey conducted by the consulting firm Deloitte isn’t much of a surprise. Forty-three percent of people check their phone within five minutes of waking up. Seventeen percent check immediately, some even before they get out of bed.
In a study of morning rituals by management expert Laura Vanderkam and Inc. Magazine, successful people start their day with water instead of coffee, exercise, work on either a priority business project or spend time on a personal passion project, spend time with family, meditate – and one-third say they make their beds every day. But 25 percent say they never do.
My buddy and colleague Shane Pliska posited that if there is enough sunlight to grow a plant, there is enough sunlight for a humans to thrive. The exact quote is worth sharing: “A plant is like the canary for the modern workplace. If there is enough light to support plant life, there is enough light to support a healthy and productive environment for people, too.”
Some read email, watch news headlines, or plan out the rest of their day. I tend to read the paper (I’m old school) and drink coffee.
Not a single person in the survey mentioned waking up to sunlight, looking out their window, or getting outside to start their day. No wonder so many people start their day so completely stressed out.
We have written so much in this blog about the positive effects of exposure to nature. Over and over, all types of psychology experiments and observational studies show the benefits of exposure to nature in our lives on our mental and physical health. And it’s especially important and effective first thing in the morning.
Getting sunlight first thing in the morning is one of the best things you can do. First, it tells your body clock it’s time to start the day. The science of chronobiology shows sunlight tells your body to stop producing melatonin, which is the hormone that controls sleep patterns. When melatonin shuts down, you become more alert. Exposure to sunlight and natural light helps you keep your circadian rhythms steady, and will also help you set a constant time to go to sleep and get up. Sleep deprivation is a huge problem in the U.S.
Psychologists at the University of Rochester in New York conducted a series of studies on exposure to nature during physical activity and social interaction. The findings show many positive effects of exposure to nature – even when the exposure is only photos of nature.
The researchers conducted various experiments on the same group of 500 college students. In one, the students went on a 15-minute walk down hallways. In another, they took the same walk on a tree-lined path. In a third, the students viewed photos of buildings, or photos of nature landscapes. In the fourth experiment, students were asked to visualize themselves in activities inside and outside. In the last experiment, students were asked to keep a diary tracking their activities, the location of those activities, and their moods. They were asked to list when they were exposed to nature, including plants and windows.
In every single experiment, the students felt more energy when they were in natural settings or had views of nature. They also felt nearly as energetic just looking at photos, or imagining themselves in nature. Being outside in nature for just 20 minutes a day significantly raised their energy levels. Even the presence of nature such as plants had a positive effect apart from getting outside.
Rochester Professor Richard Ryan says he got the idea for the study from another study done by Professor Netta Weinstein at the University of Hamburg, Germany. Her studies showed people are more generous and caring when they are exposed to nature.
I’ll keep providing you the information and hope it sinks in: human beings have a connection to living things and nature. We sometimes forget we ARE nature. We are only separated from it by the structures we build to shield us from its effects. We flourish best as people when we have nature in our environments. We need access to parks, we need to incorporate natural elements like trees and plants along our neighborhood streets, and we need natural elements in our homes and buildings. This includes views of nature through windows, and indoor plants.
So get your morning off to the perfect start by waking up and letting the sunlight hit you. Go to a window if you don’t have one in your field of vision when you wake up. Then schedule 15 minutes to take a walk. Head for a neighborhood park, but even a tree-lined street will do. Listen for the sounds of nature such as birds or even the breeze. Look at the plants and flowers. Spot an early morning spider web — but don’t walk through it!
Add plants to your indoor environment, and one of those mornings per week, spend time tending to your plants after your walk. There’s a double hit of nature in the morning. Why not do this every Monday to jump start a productive and healthier week? Your productivity and improved health will keep working for you if you come to a workspace where there are natural elements, including plants.
If your workplace doesn’t have natural light, there are still ways to incorporate replica plants or scenes of nature. How about one of our new living moss walls? Good Earth Plant Company can help strategize ways to make the most of your mornings and the rest of your day too. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org Whether you make your bed or not is up to you.