Smart Ways to Get Outside the Office

You know about the push to go green, get outside into nature, and hug your fellow trees. But is it really worth it? Does too much time spent within four walls really lead to a disorder?

Experts have defined it—there is such a thing as Nature Deficit Disorder. Though Nature Deficit Disorder, the result of a cultural trend towards everything indoors, has been cited as a possible explanation for hyperactivity disorders in children, common sense would suggest that if kids are bearing the negative brunt of too much walled-in screen time, you could be too.

As the numbers of adults who suffer from anxiety and depression is consistently on the rise, we have to wonder if our environment, or lack thereof, might not be partly to blame. A sedentary, largely-indoor lifestyle is not only hard on your body; it’s hard on your mind.

Exercise Alone Isn’t Enough

Though many of us have committed to regular exercise to keep from becoming a desk potato, we’re mostly getting our sweat on indoors. When I took up martial arts training, I was on the mat five to six days a week, kicking, wrestling, and lifting kettlebells for all I was worth—but all indoors. Even though I was getting adequate exercise, I noticed anxiety and tension creeping in.

Let’s face it, we all need the green and to get outside every once in a while.

Smart Ways to Go Green and Get Your Daily Nature Fix

Even the most skyscraper-surrounded city dweller can find ways to go green and incorporate their daily nature boost. Getting the most out of your life means finding creative solutions that buck the status quo. Here are a few ways to incorporate the green you need:

1. Switch Your Workout Venue

Even if you’re paying megabucks for your gym membership, consider incorporating some green-rich workouts into your weekly regimen. Adding a quick 20 or 30-minute morning walk or jog gets your head cleared and your body relaxed to tackle the day.

2. Lunch in the Park

Though your coworkers are heading off to the restaurant, consider packing your lunch and picnicking in a nearby park or even your office courtyard. Get outside, eat slowly, focus on the plants, animals, and people around you, breathe fresh air—you’re guaranteed to return to work more relaxed and refreshed than if you’d gobbled that greasy food at a crowded, noisy restaurant.

3. Refocus

Even when we do get outdoors, we’re often rushing into a building or to the car. We’re looking at a text message or thinking so intently on the rest of the day’s to-do list that we don’t even see the nature built into our surroundings. You don’t have to take a day-long hike to experience the outdoors; just try letting your eyes linger on the trees and flowers that pop up naturally in your day.

4. Alter Your Social Time

When we make the time to meet with friends, we often default to the no-brainer movie, coffee, or drinks venues. Consider bringing some green to your social time—grab the coffee to go and then head for a stroll around a lake or through a park.

5. Find a Group

If you want more variety and have a little more time, consider joining an outdoor enthusiast group in your area. It’s a great way to get exposure to new areas and activities you might not have discovered on your own. You’ll also meet other young professionals—could be a great networking opportunity!

Making the Most of Your Green Time

Even if you are able to get yourself into the outdoors, make sure you aren’t diminishing the effects with needless distractions. The goal is a relaxed mind and uplifted spirits. Here’s how to make the most of your time in the great outdoors, even if it’s limited.

  • Ditch Your iPod. Allowing the outdoor sounds (even if they include buses and taxis) to be your only soundtrack cuts anxiety. Just allow yourself to soak in your surroundings.
  • Turn off the phone. You don’t need a friend to talk you through your walk. If you feel safer having your phone with you just put the ringer and texts on silent.
  • Look around you. Intentionally focus on the living, growing things. As spring stakes its claim watch trees put forth sprouts and blossoms, observe the perennials popping up. Seriously, it’s like free therapy.
  • Find the sweet spots. Not all outdoor locales are relaxing and beautiful. Bad architecture and unkempt lawns are depressing. Explore different neighborhoods to find the locations where you can unwind by just being there.

Too Busy to Get Outside?

If your complaint is: “I don’t have the time to do nature!” then honestly, it’s probably time for a priority check. Remember, getting out into the great outdoors isn’t meant to sap your time, but to help you restore the peace, serenity and focus that is hard to achieve in an all-indoors life.

Do a little experiment. Give yourself that much-needed green time and see what happens to your stress and anxiety levels. Sometimes the simplest solution to tension, depression and restlessness is right outside your front door.

What can you do to go green and add a little wilderness to your life today?

Photo by Louis Lander-Deacon (Used with permission. Find Louis on facebook)

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Jacki Christopher is a writer, translator and language instructor. When she's not working on an article, she's studying and writing about Mexican culture and current affairs, training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or baking. She travels as much as her budget allows, but Philadelphia is home.


  1. Nick Beske on the 29th April

    Getting involved with a business networking group is great too. Not only does it get you out of the office, it’s a great way to grow your business!

  2. Paul Sanderson on the 30th April

    I have to say that after years of not getting outside or taking break during the day, I have recently seen the light and now get out and take a breaks. I find that my productivity is way up. Yay for breaks and outside fun.

  3. Side Stitches on the 2nd May

    Some co-workers and I walk during lunch and it’s such a great break from the artificial lighting and recycled air. It helps to clear my head and get me ready for my afternoon. It’s also fun to see the seasons changing up close and personal and to enjoy both the crisp, cold days and the hot summer days. We love it!

  4. erin on the 2nd May

    Thank you for simplifying the steps to prioritize getting outside! I can’t wait to get away from my desk now 😉

  5. Janine on the 2nd May

    I’ve been really inspired by nature lately, and affirm what you say. This is all kind of a new phase for me. I think we all have Nature Deficit Disorder, and yet we don’t know it! A walk outdoors really does clear my head far more than I think it will theoretically. I don’t know how it works, but I have become a believer. Thanks for spreading the word!

  6. Jatin on the 2nd May

    Great article Jacki. I really liked you point regarding Lunch. It’s good if you have your meal somewhere outside, other than office cafeteria.

  7. Jamie on the 3rd May

    My coworkers and I try to eat outside for lunch almost everyday in the summer. It gives us a break from the indoors, but also from our patients and offices. Many times we will try to fit a short walk in after lunch. It makes the day go by so much faster and with less stress. I also recently bought a few flowering plants (orchids, roses) and have put them in the window of my office. It brighens up the room and brings some life to the indoors.

    • Jacki Christopher on the 4th May

      Way to bring the outdoors inside, Jamie–that’s a great tip for green-ing the office environment.

  8. Alex Zokaei on the 31st March

    Also having business meetings and discussions in outdoor environments as apposed to having all meetings and discussions in the office

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