Every few weeks, I like to take a step away from writing articles about how to improve your fundraising efforts or your grant application process to talk about something that is equally as important in the nonprofit sector: your wellbeing.
As I have said before (LINK), burnout is one of the leading reasons many nonprofit staff leave the sector. This makes it hard for nonprofits to retain excellent talent (along with low pay, but that’s another post.)
Burnout is defined as physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress (Link). As you are probably aware, most nonprofit professionals are overworked and stressed. Do you see the link? One could even argue that burnout is one of the hazards of working for a nonprofit!
So what can you do about it? Last time we chatted about this, I suggested that you take steps to stay motivated by celebrating your organization’s small and large “wins”. This time we are going to take a look at a picture!
Attention Restoration Theory
In the 1980’s, two psychologists in the USA began formulating a theory about the positive effects experiencing nature has on attention. Their theory, the Attention Restoration Theory, postulates that exposure to nature and its “soft fascinations” has a positive effect on attention and directed focus.
Essentially, they found evidence to show that spending time in nature helps you pay more attention focusing on tasks. That’s so cool!
Further research has shown that spending time in nature or even looking at pictures of nature reduce stress compared to looking at pictures or scenes of buildings and cities.
Don’t believe me? You can check out these studies to understand how psychologists came to these conclusions:
After medical surgery, patients resting in rooms overlooking trees recovered better than those in rooms with only a view of a brick wall. They experienced fewer complications from the surgery, recovered faster, and asked for weaker painkiller drugs.
18 minute slide show of urban and nature scenes (N = 46). Nature scenes enhanced positive affect and reduced fear, whereas urban scenes increased sadness. There also some evidence that nature scenes tended to alleviate Aggression/Anger whereas urban scenes tended to exacerbate such feelings.
How can I apply this to my life?
Go out and spend time in nature! Even spending one day a week hiking for a few hours can decrease the stress and recharge your attention. If you can’t do that, put your computer or phone backgrounds as a beautiful landscape or buy a calendar with beautiful natural landscapes for each month. Maybe even plant a lush garden in your home or place of work. Then, spend a few minutes every few hours sitting and enjoying the “soft fascinations” of the environment. Let your attention wander and enjoy the relaxation that comes from watching bees pollinate flowers or a bird fly over the mountains. This will calm you and recharge your directed attention, making it easier for you to focus and direct your attention back at work, home or wherever!
Then, let me know how you feel! Would love to hear how it works for you! Please feel free to share this article with anyone, as this advice applies to anyone that may feel a bit stressed out with work or life!
Build Your Donor List, No Matter Where You Are In The Process
Founder at Reed Community Consulting and NPO.lib
Brandon helps people help other people. He has over 10 years experience working with small and medium-sized nonprofits in two countries in many different sectors. He has worked at all levels of organization from entry-level service delivery up to the executive director and board president. This experience affords him insight for whole level management of an organization, which he transfers to his clients. In his free time, he likes to play volleyball and spend time gardening with his wife and dog.