You may have seen the news about a study conducted by Cornell Professor Rana Zadeh. The study compared nurses working in two wards of an acute-care unit. While the working conditions were similar in terms of organization, environment and the type of patients they cared for, the significant difference was the availability of windows in the nurses' work stations. The results showed that nurses with more natural light had lower blood pressure, talked and laughed more and had better overall moods than their counterparts in the ward with fewer windows and less natural light. In the study they provided evidence that working in natural light improves performance, mood and alertness, and has a positive effect on people both physiologically and psychologically.
So what does this mean for all of us? In most cases, there's little you can do to modify your work environment but there are a few things that may help:
- Avoid the windowless break room & lunch room. Opt instead to go outside and enjoy a few minutes of fresh air and natural light. If you can take a walk at lunch, do so. In colder climates, spend a few minutes near a window during the winter months and take in the natural lighting. These steps are similar to parking farther away in the parking lot and taking the steps instead of the elevator in order to get more exercise. In this case, you're taking steps to elevate your mood and improve your performance.
- If you're a home health aide or caregiver, throw open the drapes. Not only will the natural light be good for you, your care recipient will benefit as well. While you're at it, throw open your own drapes at home!
- Spend time outside when you get home from work and on the weekends. Spending too much time inside can have negative effects on your mood and attitude.
- If you're job hunting, there are many factors that are likely to be far more important than a "room with a view", but while you're interviewing, observe the surroundings. If you have a choice and all things are (mostly) equal, opt for the job with the most natural light.
Taking good care of yourself means not only eating well and exercising; it also means taking care of the simple things like getting natural light into your surroundings!