Productivity and creativity: reaping the benefits of restorative environments

I made this video on holiday. Hence the stubble from a failure to shave for about a week or so.

You may have noticed that I make quite a lot of videos when I am out walking, especially on beaches. And, in a way, that fact illustrates the point I am making in this video, which is all about how exposure to natural environments can help order our thinking and boost our productivity and creativity.


It is a useful practice to go away and reflect. I’ve been here five days or so and it’s taken four of those days to get into a frame of mind to have some original thought and some different ideas.

We all get so caught up in the day-to-day, caught up in the particular problems that we are dealing with at any given moment, that we rarely have enough time, unless we are deliberate about it, to take a step back and think differently about things and take a different perspective.

That is why it is so important to to try to be intentional to do this and going on holiday can force you into the situation where you can be intentional. This is because you have a change of circumstances and you have the time to be able to take a different approach in a way that in our ordinary life we rarely do.

So I think the lesson for us is to try to build in the capacity to take short “holidays” on a daily basis – create ways to get away from things. And there is a good way you can actually do this.

And whilst I’m not suggesting for one moment that I’m an expert because, as I have just told you it’s not something that I can habitually do without thinking about. But we can change our environment in a way that gives us the capacity to change the way that we are thinking about things.

And we can do it by literally putting ourselves in a different place. In fact I do this when I’m working. When I break I will very often step outside and go for a walk, if at all possible, in a natural environment.

There’s a post on my website Self Determined which talks about the proven scientific benefits of going into a natural environment to get relief from the intensity of directing your attention on work or whatever it may be. The evidence is that by simply exposing yourself to natural environments, even just pictures of natural environments (which is weird but true), you can replenish your resources and your capacity to concentrate, and to work creatively and deeply.

So it’s worth bearing in mind, when you are bogged down in everyday detail, trying to solve problems, that very often what we need to solve those problems is to break the spell – to get out into a different environment, to help change our point of view and see things in a different light.

So that is something I would recommend and something I’ve been reminded of now being able to go out for a lovely early morning walk on this beautiful beach.

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Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of environmental psychology, 15(3), 169-182.

Ulrich, Roger S., Robert F. Simons, Barbara D. Losito, Evelyn Fiorito, Mark A. Miles, and Michael Zelson. “Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments.” Journal of environmental psychology 11, no. 3 (1991): 201-230.

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