Combat stress in the gray days ahead - Your science based plan of action

Updated: Oct 21, 2018

Every time it rains it rains, pennies from heaven...

I personally love the rain. Even when I have to bike through it like I do today. However, I know that not everyone shares my affinity for precipitation, especially when the temps are in the low 40s (also like today). Indeed 'the winter blues' is a real phenomenon. Changes in temperature and reduced exposure to natural light can change the levels of different chemicals in your brain which can cause you to feel tired and unmotivated.

If you research this issue a lot of the remedies you will find include increasing your exposure to light, exercising more, spending more time with friends, and volunteering. I think those are all great suggestions and would encourage everyone to stay active through the next few months. However, one challenge with implementing the majority of these 'remedies' is that they require you to commit your time. If your schedule is already full, or if you frankly don't feel motivated to do the things you already have on your calendar, is scheduling even more things to do going to be effective?

One effortless way to preemptively prepare for those gray skies is to start bringing the outdoors in. The impact of indoor plants on our health is still being measured and additional research needs to be done. However, encouraging results showing that indoor plants can boost mood and relieve stress, continue to emerge. A 2005 study I just found, done by researchers at the National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan, is one good example (1). They examined the effect of window views and indoor plants on stress indicators in a workplace environment. The researchers used a psychophysiological approach. (Psychophysiological - say that three times fast!) This means that they measured activity happening in the brain and collected data on how participants reported feeling from the office environment. They found participants to be less nervous or anxious when observing a view of nature and/or when indoor plants were present. If you had to choose between a view through a window and a view of a plants, which is better?

According to this study, the view from the window! (I know you though I was going to say plants, but I promise to always let the science speak for itself!).

It's important to note that the researchers don't tell us if the view through the window is of a bright sunny day or a cloudy gray one. They do, however, conclusively report that when neither the window view nor the indoor plants were visible, participants suffered the highest degree of tension and anxiety.

So what's the takeaway?

Hightail it to a window right now and carry a pla