Enjoy a Green Micro-Break

Audio option (to listen instead of reading):

Brief Activity

See the flowering plant just below? Click on the 'play' arrow, and on 'full screen' (bottom right corner).

Rest your gaze on the photo. Allow your eyes to wander where they will over plant and background for 40 seconds. Let fascination be your guide.

Then exit full screen.

Explanation to follow!

You've just taken a green micro-break.

How was it? Easy? Fascinating? Perhaps a little challenging to maintain your focus for that long?

Any resistance pop up? Like, "I don't wanna do this. I've got more important things to do."

It's all good. Just stuff to notice.

Next time could be different.

Activity to Grab & Go

Take a green microbreak whenever you have the opportunity and inclination. It works best when you sit, stand, or lie down in one spot so you can concentrate.

Here's how, step by step:

  1. With gentle curiosity, notice how you feel right now
  2. Look around for any nature scene or item, indoors or outdoors
  3. Let your gaze rest on it and wander over it as you wish. Feel free to look more closely or from different angles. Let fascination be your guide
  4. Keep your focus on it longer than you might be used to (20 to 40 seconds or more)
  5. Notice how you feel while you're still gazing at nature, and compare with before you started.

The first landmark on this nature adventure is to enjoy green micro-breaks. You did one with the flowering plant. Do another one of your choosing and you can tick the box on your playsheet. Woohoo! Landmark #1 is in sight!

Participant Stories

"Just took a small micro break. Was feeling a bit scattered before - rushed and a bit antsy. Spent some time with a growing snake plant, looking at it's new leaves and color and shape. Feel more calm and content after." – Alicia 
“When I’m getting tired of looking my computer screen, I now automatically look out my window and see what nature has to offer me in that moment.” – Megan 

Why take green micro-breaks?

As you’ll read below, one study found that 40 seconds of looking at a nature scene can improve concentration. It can also help you learn and remember better what you're about to read, which is every instructor's dream!

We'll do green micro-breaks again. In fact, we'll make it a habit throughout the program, so that you're more likely to adopt them as part of your daily nature practice.

Opportunities abound! Any plant, animal, butterfly, any patch of ground, water or sky, or a photo of nature is an opportunity for a nature micro-break.

My desk is in front of a high window, so I often look up while thinking, and I see shrubbery and the changing light throughout the day. Bushtits occasionally appear and are a welcome distraction.

Green (and blue) micro-breaks keep us in touch with nature throughout the day, providing nourishment and improving our mental and emotional energy. Kind of like a bite of a sugary snack, but so much healthier. A green micro-break of a few seconds to a couple of minutes allows us to ground, regroup, and prepare for whatever’s next in our day.

Research Spotlight

Here's some surprising research:

Students who looked at a digital photo of an urban green roof for 40 seconds, made significantly fewer mistakes and responded more consistently to a focused task, compared with students who looked at a digital photo of a concrete roof (Lee, Williams, et al., 2015).

Photos used in the research:

Amazing that looking at a digital green view (that isn't even that exciting) for just 40 seconds significantly improves our ability to pay attention! And why is this important?

“Sustained attention is crucial in daily life and underlies successful cognitive functioning (Lee, Williams, et al., 2015), which includes “learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, [and] decision making” (Fisher, Chacon, et al. 2019).

Wow! Seems worth the time to pause to look at nature scenes, doesn’t it? This practice could easily save us time in the long run, reduce the chance of errors, and help us creatively solve problems and make better decisions. Not to mention help us focus on what's really important.

In section two, we'll dive deeper into how and when to take brief nature breaks. For now, go ahead and take green micro-breaks whenever you have the opportunity or inclination. Whenever you remember, just switch your gaze from whatever you're looking at to a nature scene or a plant or animal.

See you in the next step.

Optional Reading

Online Article

Just Looking at Nature Can Make Your Brain Work Better, Study Finds. Chris Mooney, May 26, 2105. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/05/26/viewing-nature-can-help-your-brain-work-better-study-finds/


Fisher, G. G., Chacon, M., & Chaffee, D. S. (2019). Theories of Cognitive Aging and Work. In Work Across the Lifespan (pp. 17-45). Academic Press. Accessed Oct. 26, 2019 from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128127568000025?via%3Dihub

Lee, K. E., Williams, K. J., Sargent, L. D., Williams, N. S., & Johnson, K. A. (2015). 40-second green roof views sustain attention: The role of micro-breaks in attention restoration. Journal of Environmental Psychology42, 182-189. Accessed Feb. 14, 2020 from: https://www.ltl.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/40-second-green-roof-views-sustain-attention.pdf

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