Everyone wants to be happier. The interest in happiness courses, happiness tools and tricks has skyrocketed in the last ten years.
There has also been an increase in the research into the neuroscience of happiness. We have done research on the science behind happiness at work, and most of the things that make us happy (like exercise and eating well) are well known.
We wanted to find the simplest thing to do that would have the biggest effect. Something that everyone could do, even if they don’t exercise regularly or eat well all the time.
I think I might have found the answer.
There’s one thing that’s incredibly simple to do and will have a long-lasting effect on your happiness; Going for a 20-minute walk outside.
It seems almost too simple to be true, but it is a combination of the long lasting effects of walking and what the beauty of nature does to your happiness.
Walking Makes Us Happier
Walking has been shown to make people happier. In an interesting experiment done by researchers at Montreal’s McGill University, they looked at 3,400 different people’s transportation methods to work and how it affected their happiness. The study even accounted for factors that might affect a commute, specifically, the weather.
Despite inclement weather, the rate of satisfaction was highest for walkers. With 86% of them claiming to be satisfied compared with 75% for people who took the metro (subway) or bus. The train took second place with an 84% satisfaction rate.
One of the reasons that walkers were happier, according to the researchers, was that they didn’t have to deal with traffic issues or strikes from train companies. Leading to a lot less stress and time wasted.
It might not be possible for everyone to walk to work depending on the distance of the commute, but it’s interesting to see that how walking is the least stressful form of transportation to do.
It is also interesting to note that driving is volatile for your emotions and mental health.
Loud noise raises our levels of epinephrine (a hormone involved in our body’s fight-or-flight response), even if we don’t feel bothered by it.
According to a Kronos survey called Road Wage, 5,000,000 employed American adults have called into work sick because they couldn’t face their commute.
One study from Temple University found that walking helps your body produce endorphins, which help relieve depression, anxiety and stress.
Another benefit of walking is that it can help you sleep better. According to the National Sleep Foundation, walking helps boost levels of serotonin, which relaxes you.
Also, the rise in body temperature from walking helps signal your brain to lower your temperature later, helping you fall asleep easier. More sleep will make you happier.
Nature Makes Us Happier
It is amazing the kind of effect that nature has on our minds.
Similarly amazing is the kind of negative effect that the city life has on our minds. Our brains are hard-wired to enjoy the calm of the countryside, with the trees and vast amounts of grass.
The busy lifestyle, all the lights, noises and fast pace of the city actually confuses our brain, which makes us more aggressive, consequently leaving us unhappy.
Researchers think this is because we spent so much time as humans living in rural areas, has caused our brains to want, and embrace, nature.
When researchers from Exeter University wanted to test this, they took participants into a room and using MRI scans looked at brain activity when participants were shown images of both rural and city settings.
When rural images were flashed onto a screen, the limbic area of the brain was activated and lit up on the scanner. The limbic area is associated with feelings of calm and peacefulness.
However, when images of cities and busy streets were shown to the participants, the area of the brain associated with complexity (the visual cortex) was activated.
This caused the brain to try and scan the image, make sense of everything it was seeing and process all the information, which lead to confusion and anxiety.
Even if you have lived in a city all your life, it seems your brain doesn’t quite know what to do with this information and has to do visual processing.Dr Ian Frampton, Exeter University psychologist
What You Can Do As An Employer
Employee happiness has even been found the be linked to productivity. Researchers in the UK found that happier employees are 12% more productive than their unhappy counterparts.
It’s important for managers to keep an eye on employee happiness, and make sure that employees are as happy as possible.
So what’s something simple that you can you do as an employer to increase happiness? Have walking meetings!
Researchers at Stanford University conducted a study where they measured how creative people were when they were walking or sitting.
They found that creativity improved by an average of 60% when the person was walking.
While walking outside is the ideal scenario, as an employer, you can walk with your employees indoors as well. The Stanford researchers found the same effects on creativity when people walked on a treadmill in a dark, windowless room.
This Is Super Simple, But…
Going for a 20-minute walk outside is one of the simplest things you can do to increase happiness, but to have more dramatic effects, feel free to add more things into your life.
It’s all about starting small and growing into it.
When you’re ready to start adding more things to make you happier, these are some good ideas:
- Regular Exercise
- Buying Gifts for Others
It’s important to be continuously monitoring employee happiness with a tool like Officevibe. Happiness has a direct link to productivity, so, as a manager, it’s in your best interest to keep employees as happy as possible.
What’s Your Average Commute Time To Work?
In North America, the average commute time to work is about 25.4 minutes to get to work. Could shorter commuting times lead to decreased stress levels?
Let us know how long it takes for you to commute to work and how it affects your day in the comment panel below!