Beyond mental health, how being outside can boost your business

In a world dominated by screens, our connection with nature often takes a backseat. Yet, the physical and mental health benefits of immersing ourselves in nature have been widely acknowledged. Learn how time spent outside in nature can help sharpen your cognition, strategic thinking and problem-solving skills in this blog by IoD member Jane Fisher.

The physical and mental health benefits of being outside in nature are well documented, for example, it:

  • improves mood
  • reduces feelings of stress or anger
  • helps us take time out and feel more relaxed
  • improves confidence and self-esteem
  • lowers blood pressure
  • improves physical health

Indeed, leaders who build in spending time outside and find ways to bring nature into their everyday lives – even in urban areas through local parks or other green spaces – know this is critical to maintaining their overall wellbeing in our challenging times.

Psychological research continues to advance our understanding of how time in nature can improve our mental health. Yet increasingly our working days are spent staring at screens and arguably we’ve never been more disconnected from nature than we are at the moment.

Benefits beyond health

But, what about the benefits that go beyond improving physical health and mental well-being?

What about the benefits that, if harnessed, sharpen our cognition, make problem-solving more successful and fruitful, strategic thinking more creative and ambitious, decision-making more dynamic and effective, and teams more powerful?

Can nature alone really do that too?

Indeed, it can!

Because being outside in nature:

  • allows the day-to-day grind and issues to disappear temporarily giving the individual headspace to think and explore ideas, to gain clarity and focus
  • gives us a new perspective, a different way of thinking, helping to solve issues and problems with greater capacity and new-found vigour
  • inspires us, increasing creative and strategic thinking, and lets the ideas flow as the same four walls that are barriers to creativity and innovation are removed
  • helps break down barriers and inspire increased feelings of community, trust and goodwill which leads to improved teamwork and networking
  • enables many of us to learn more and better than when indoors

When I speak to CEOs and senior leaders who want to become more effective and excel in their roles, there’s always a common theme in what they tell me, regardless of the industry they work in.

They need more headspace to think clearly, strategically and creatively.

However, the challenging environment in which many organisations operate, means they feel they have little choice but to default to the same traditional working conditions – long days in stifling offices and virtual environments with little access to nature and its power to enable a different way of learning, thinking and approaching problems.

Yet, organising development as well as strategic opportunities, in outdoor settings can provide inspiration as well as give leaders a break from their usual routine.

And I’m not alone in these findings, for example, Kimberly D. Elsbach, Professor of Management at the University of California informed American National Public Radio:

“Staying inside, in the same location, is really detrimental to creative thinking. It’s also detrimental to doing that rumination that’s needed for ideas to percolate and gestate and allow a person to arrive at an ‘aha’ moment.”

So true!

The impact of ‘the outside’ on enhancing vital organisational strategic leadership is fascinating. The untapped potential of our capacity to think more creatively and deliver ambitious strategies is huge and so exciting.

Indeed, it’s the concept of harnessing the power of nature to reignite our creativity and innovation, our problem-solving and strategic thinking, that led me to create JFA’s ‘Outside Thinking’ consultancy and coaching offer – the release and inspiration from being ‘outside’ being at its heart.

The impact of taking executives, directors or business owners away from their offices to venues with inspiring vistas, spending time outside ‘walking and talking’ to capitalise on the power of nature – be this through ‘deep dive’ strategy days or shorter ‘sounding board’ sessions – is palpable. Clients simply love it, leaving sessions positive, energised and refreshed. What else can any of us ask for?

This blog reflects the perspectives of the contributor writing in a personal capacity, and not the official position of the IoD

About the author

Jane Fisher

Founder & Director, Jane Fisher Associates Ltd

A Board Advisor and Change Leadership Consultant, Jane works with executives and their leadership teams, challenging the status quo and transforming their thinking and approaches to driving organisational ‘change’. In this way, she helps them and their people to excel, cultivating growth, development and adaptability to deliver a healthy, robust and agile business.

Her unique and effervescent approach offers opportunities for Outside Thinking to inspire creative and strategic thinking; encourage innovative problem solving; offer a mental breather to bring clarity and focus; be energised – thus transforming the individuals she works with.

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