By Miranda Massie on August 3, 2017
Summer is in full swing. The beautiful weather at this time of year always reminds me to appreciate the stunning natural environment in which we live, work and play. At UBC, we are unique in that we are just a short walk away from beaches, forests, gardens and natural wonders that draw tourists from around the globe. With this realization though, my internal motivation to stay inside and work can sometimes take a hit.
On the plus side, research tells us that we do not have to be outside to reap the benefits of our natural surroundings. The new Wellbeing Design Lab in the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) at UBC Vancouver is a great example of how to enhance your physical space in order to optimize wellbeing.
Click on the video below for a virtual tour of the space.
When designing the lab, the wellbeing of its occupants was top of mind. Some of the features in the space include height adjustable desks, a Pacific Spirit Park wall mural, different plant varieties, flexible and varied spaces, and natural light.
Read on to find out how you can boost your health while indoors.
Furniture that can be adapted or customized to suit a variety of needs helps to increase productivity and accessibility while also boosting social connectivity and inclusivity.
Try: Re-arranging your desk layout, adding a keyboard tray or attending a free Sit-Stand Desk Workshop.
Grab some green
Did you know that simply looking at images of nature provides a host of positive health benefits, including decreased stress and improved mood? Also, high-oxygen-producing plants like peace lilies can help to increase productivity and comfort, while reducing stress and sickness in workplaces.
Try: Changing your desktop image and screen saver to a favourite image of nature, or caring for a small plant at your desk or with a group of colleagues.
Find the balance: “Me Space vs. We Space”
Collaboration can help boost connection and creativity, but the healthiest forums for collaboration are the ones where you can identify and use a range of spaces to suit your working needs in the moment. Some examples include collaborative workspaces, quiet office spaces, flex spaces, hot desks/drop-in stations and comfortable lounge spaces.
Try: Identifying and labeling the different areas in your workplace to help ensure everyone knows what type of work fits best in that space, and where they can go to get the level of interaction they require. You could even give the spaces fun names or colour zones.
Let the sun shine
Appropriate levels of natural light and sunshine can improve mood and alertness, minimize disruption to circadian rhythm, enhance productivity, support good sleep quality and provide appropriate visual acuity.
Try: Taking your next break close to a window, or booking a room with natural light for meetings or an hour of quiet work time. No windows? There are lots of great buildings at UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan that provide a wealth of natural light, including the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), AMS Student Nest, Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre, Forest Sciences Centre (bonus, it has plants!) and Okanagan Administration Building (with Sunshine Café!). It’s worth paying them a visit.
This month, as you look wistfully out your window at the beautiful scenery, I encourage you to find new ways to bring that splendor indoors and to see if it improves your health. I also invite you to stop by the Wellbeing Design Lab, Monday to Friday from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. to explore the space.
For more information, including UBC research on the connection between natural environments, physical spaces and health, check out the following:
- Environmentally Smart Design: Designing for Social Wellbeing Across the City and in the Workplace (UBC CWL required)
- Health and Community Design: The Impact of the Built Environment on Physical Activity
- Healthy People with Nature in Mind (UBC CWL Required)
- Natural Environments, Health, and Well-Being
- Rationale to Address Well-being through Physical Spaces in Post-Secondary Settings
Grinde, B., & Patil, G. G. (2009). Biophilia: Does Visual Contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being? Int. J. of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(9), 2332–2343.
Huet, V. Literature review of art therapy-based interventions for work-related stress. Int. J. Art Therapy. 20,66–76 (2015).
Huss, E. & Sarid, O. Visually transforming artwork and guided imagery as a way to reduce work related stress: A quantitative pilot study. Arts Psychother. 41, 409–412 (2014).
Photo credit: UBC Communications and Marketing
By Melissa Lafrance on August 3, 2017
We often don’t stop to reflect on how our environment is interconnected and influences our own personal health and wellbeing. Read on to discover connections between our natural environment and its positive impacts on health and wellbeing.
Engaging with nature
Activities that promote engagement with the environment allow us to connect with nature in constructive ways, both for ourselves and for the greater good of our environments.
Research shows that we need nature to nurture our psychological, emotional and spiritual needs. It is also believed that being in nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity. Study results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. 
Being around nature also has interpersonal benefits. There is evidence indicating that people prone to perceiving natural beauty report greater prosocial tendencies, perspective taking, empathy, generosity, trust and helping behaviours. [2, 3]
In return, caring for the environment can develop into something more and can benefit our own wellbeing. Showing gratitude to nature can strengthen spiritual growth. According to a new study by UBC Assistant Professor Catherine Broom, protecting the environment can be as easy as telling children to go play outdoors. Children who play outside are more likely to care about nature.
Outdoor physical activity and mental wellbeing
Being alone with nature has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety.  When paired with physical activity outdoors, the benefits are even more significant. Research has shown that walking in forested areas decreases stress and anxiety, and inspires better moods when compared to walking in busy urban areas. Findings from additional studies indicate that walking in nature can spur positive emotions and improved performance on memory tasks. 
Green spaces and health benefits
A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report co-authored by Dr. Matilda van den Bosch, Assistant Professor in UBC’s School of Population & Public Health (SPPH), summarizes the health benefits of urban green spaces. Urban green spaces have shown various health benefits, including improved mood, stress relief and promotion of physical activity.
Whether you work at UBC Vancouver, UBC Okanagan or one of UBC’s many off-campus sites, we are so lucky to work in locations situated by the ocean or surrounded with greenery. Nature is basically at our fingertips. Explore the natural environment around you by taking a walking meeting or joining a walking group. Also, check out hidden gems on campus during your lunch break.
We know what influence the environment has on our personal health and wellbeing, which is another reason to care for our beautiful planet. We cannot care about personal health without incidentally caring about the environment. Now that we’ve made the connection, let’s find ways to sustain one another.
Other Related Information & Resources:
- City of Vancouver tips for sustainable living at home
- City of Vancouver green programs and volunteer opportunities
- UBC’s sustainable purchasing guide
- UBC’s glossary of green product labels and certifications.
- UBC’s Recyclepedia, an A-Z listing of items that can be recycled or composted on campus
 Zhang J et al: An occasion for unselfing: beautiful nature leads to prosociality. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2014; volume 37 pages 61-72.
 Atchley R, Strayer D, Atchley P: Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning Through Immersion in Natural Settings. PLoS ONE. 2012; 7(12): e51474.
Photo credit: Melissa Lafrance
By Miranda Massie on February 2, 2017
This month’s feature:
With the demands we all have on our time from teaching, work, research and family needs, UBC knows it’s not easy to hit the gym every day. There are lots of different ways you can exercise instead! Whatever you can fit into your day is a great start to get moving: long walks, short sprints, commuting by bike – but most importantly, getting up from your desk and sitting less is a great start.
Research shows that moving more and sitting less can improve your mental and physical health, which helps you feel good and reduces the risk factors for preventable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and mental illness.
Find out why it’s important to start tackling the ‘sitting disease’ and explore how you can stay committed to moving more with #MoveUBC this month and don’t forget to Wear Your Active Wear on February 28!
Other Events and Activities
Join the annual Lunar New Year Celebration at Wesbrook Village. Experience a traditional lion dance and cultural performances, tea tasting, calligraphy, crafts, and leave with a red envelope!
Yoga and Pilates for Staff and Faculty at the Alumni Centre: Starting Feb 8
Start the New Year off with free yoga and Pilates with your colleagues.
Join us on Wednesday mornings in the foyer of the UBC Welcome Centre for some Pilates stretching and strengthening 7:30-8:20am.
Visit on Fridays (starting Feb. 3) for yoga classes from 12:05-12:50pm in the Bill & Risa Levine Classroom on the 2nd floor.
Free – open to UBC faculty and staff. Please bring your own yoga mat.
Join Dr. Eli Puterman, Assistant Professor in the School of Kinesiology, to explore the damaging impact chronic stress can have on the aging of our minds and bodies, deep into our cells, and learn how movement can mitigate these effects.
Pink Shirt Day: Feb. 22
Take a stand against bullying and wear a pink in support of kindness and acceptance in schools, at work and in your communities.
UBC Recreation Open House: Feb. 24, 12-2pm
UBC staff, faculty and community members are invited to attend an open house! This interactive afternoon will include a tour of the new aquatic centre, games, free fitness classes, food, prizes, and an exclusive opportunity to register children for UBC Summer Camps. Click here for full details or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the last day of MoveUBC, you are invited to wear clothes that encourage you to move throughout your entire day. We want to see your lulu’s or your bright running shoes– anything that encourages you to move! Leave behind those high heels, restrictive ties, skirts and tight pants that can keep you from maintaining your wellbeing!
Pick up a sticker at any of the MoveUBC events and sport it on February 28th to help explain why you’re in your active wear.
For those staff with required uniforms, safety clothing or shoes/boots, we encourage you to have a discussion with your supervisors and colleagues to see how you might be able to adapt these requirements, so that you can move easily throughout your day, while still maintaining safety protocol and professionalism.
Immerse yourself in a classic Northwest Legend featuring incredible and original illustrations by world-renowned printmaker, painter, carver, author, Roy Henry Vickers.
In Peace Dancer, Vickers shares the Legend from his village of Kitkatla, BC; it is the story of The Flood. Sharing this story is more relevant to the world right now than ever before. Click here to register.
Posted in Community Health News, Events, Physical Health | Tagged activities, community, events, faculty, February, health, Lunar New Year, move UBC, Open house, pilates, staff, Stress, sustainability, UBC Recreation, updates, wellbeing, Yoga | Leave a response