The Leader Magazine

DEC 2018

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Page 36 of 55

the lea D er December 2018 37 is the next big thing sympathetic and parasympathetic responses, both preparing our bodies for mental activity (sympathetic) while reducing our stress and keeping us relaxed (parasympathetic). Many organizations are trying to bring the outdoors in, designing interiors to include plants, sunlight (or artificial lighting that mimics sunlight), fresh air, and "natural analogues," or surfaces and materials that mimic the natural environment. Research overwhelmingly shows that exposure to natural elements (even in small doses) while indoors is genuinely good for our mental and physical well-being. A recent Harvard study 2 showed that subjects in offices exposed to real nature (plants and views outside) and those wearing virtual reality headsets with images of nature both showed improved health and productivity outcomes over subjects who sat in environments with no exposure to nature. Another study by the University of Oregon found that simply providing employees with a view of trees and landscape reduced the amount of sick time they took per year. But is being indoors with a view and a breath of fresh air enough? Research shows it may not be a substitute for actually being outside. In Japan, the practice of "forest bathing," (shinrin-yoku) or taking immersive walks in nature, has been shown to decrease cortisol levels, sympathetic nervous activity, systolic blood pressure and heart rate. Studies 3 have also discovered that certain forest trees emit organic compounds called phytoncides, and inhaling these compounds has been proven to decrease blood pressure and improve immune-system functions. In light of these benefits, the Japanese

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