I recall some of my school classrooms having very few windows, no natural light, drab walls and work on our desks view able only by light from the overhead fluorescent.
No wonder it was a struggle to stay focused—or awake for that matter. As we’ve since discovered, that type of environment is not particularly conducive to productivity for students or office workers.
When a task requires a person’s full focus, that person must literally fight off the enticement of other thoughts and external distractions. If you’re trying to complete a balance sheet for this fiscal quarter, and you’re brain keeps nagging at you, for example, telling you you’re hungry, you have to fight against that voice to stay focused on your work.
That takes a lot of energy. The same applies for a student trying to complete an essay. He/she has to try his/her hardest to drown out the sound of the tapping pencil from the neighboring desk or other thoughts screaming, “When will it be Friday?”
It’s an extreme effort to attend to a task 100%. And that’s why we become mentally exhausted. Focusing on something that doesn’t require effort, like a tree, a picture of a sailboat, or a photo of kittens—these types of images, which don’t require brain effort, actually lets our brain rest, rejuvenate, and regain its ability to focus on more difficult tasks. This is the argument for classrooms and offices to be functional green spaces.
According to research from the University of Illinois (Department of Landscape Architecture), students learn and perform better on exams if they have the accessibility to see greenery.
And according to Urban Greening Research at the University of Washington, adult office workers report less illness and more enthusiasm for their job when there’s opportunity for access to green space or nature during the workday.
Results of these studies hope to encourage improved school and office design, as well as break-time spent outdoors. More windows, indoor plants, green walkways, and small parks can create a “nature” setting in an urban environment.
One expert claims that the reason for improved success has to do with Attention Restoration Theory (ART.) ART’s theory supposes that prolonged effort to focused attention causes mental exhaustion—restorative environments (such as greenery) enhance recovery from fatigue and stress.
Green views may the most beneficial. Lots of windows with views of grass, trees, mountains, or running water can quickly enhance recovery from brain strain. Courtyards previously dull with cement fixtures can be “greened-up” by painting benches, hanging flower terrariums, and even adding bonsai trees.
It can be simple additions that can change the energy of a space as well as the mood and productivity of those who work or study there. Indoor plants also work wonders, adding a calming effect as well as more oxygen.
By adding a few touches to your environment, you can help yourself become more productive, whether it’s at work or in your classes. Hopefully, this concept has sparked some ideas for you to improve your environment and your well being. What will you add first?