“Sit as little as possible. Do not believe any idea that was not born in the open air and of free movement”Nietzche
Are you fed up with sitting down? Trapped in endless Zoom meetings, longing for the open air?
It’s not surprising. Most of us spend an average 9.3 hours a day sitting. That’s longer than we spend sleeping.
Before you schedule yet another video call, take a moment to think. Could this happen outside? I’ve been coaching outdoors for years – since 2013, in fact – way before open space coaching was a thing.
If you’re stuck indoors, struggling to cope with the pressure, I’m about to give you 5 good reasons to hold meetings outdoors… even when it’s raining.
1. Creative thought
According to research carried out by Stanford University, walking outdoors increases our creative output by 60%.
Yes, you read that correctly. 60 percent. How come?
Stress reduction. Stress destroys creativity because our instinctive response (fight, flight or freeze) blocks the brain’s complex thinking pathways. They’re switched off to prioritise basic motor functions.
Pursued by a hungry bear, this makes perfect sense. When writing a proposal worth £1 million in new business, it’s less than helpful.
Getting outside restores full-on brain power. It reduces stress, stimulates creativity and brings rich abstract thinking to even the most complex problems. The right answers quickly become obvious.
2. Fresh perspectives
In the outdoor landscape, metaphors are everywhere. Wide vistas, horizons, new growth, deep valleys and high summits… I could go on, but you get the picture.
Nature is bursting with inspiration. It is, quite literally, awesome – and according to Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the University of California, a little bit of awe is a good thing.
A feeling of awe stimulates the vagus nerve, releasing the happy chemical oxytocin which calms the body and encourages openness, cooperation and connection.
Our desks and computers shout at us all day. Work harder! Work longer! Come up with more ideas! Nature does the opposite. Rather than pressure, it gives us awe. We are present in the moment, seeing problems from a fresh perspective. New ideas come to us naturally, seemingly out of nowhere.
3. Better communication
Have you noticed that when walking, you communicate more fluently? You’re relaxed, the conversation flows and you get to the point more quickly.
When walking and talking with someone, even on the phone in separate locations, we speak from the heart. The shared experience encourages us to open up. We’re more honest.
The fluency boost is partly down to increased blood flow to the brain – although speaking from outdoor coaching experience, there’s another good reason for this free flow of communication:
We’re not looking at each other.
We walk in the same direction, facing forward with visual stimulation from the surrounding environment. And, when released from the `look at me while I’m talking to you’ pressure, we pay close attention.
4.0 Your health
You’ve probably heard it before. Sitting is the smoking of our generation.
I don’t want to come across all doom and gloom, but it’s true. Extended periods of sitting time have a disastrous effect on our health – increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, excess body fat, cardiovascular problems… OK, I won’t go on about it.
Leaving the desk and moving about is good for you, not just your physical health but also your emotional wellbeing.
When you’re struggling to solve a complex problem, or you need to have a difficult conversation with a colleague, take it out into the open air.
Back in the 4th century, St Augustine coined the phrase solvitur ambulando. It means we solve it by walking. He was right.
5.0 Your happiness
I’ve left this one until last, but actually, it’s the most important reason why I began offering outdoor coaching to clients. It makes them (and me) happy. Why does happiness bring outstanding results?
Because you learn more effectively when you’re happy. I’ve recently discovered that it’s down to the chemical advantages of dopamine and serotonin.
When it comes to problem-solving, these happy chemicals have an amazing effect. They help the brain make connections faster. Information processing becomes more efficient, helping us memorise new information and access it quickly in the future.
Put simply, happy thoughts make us more intelligent. And with that happy thought, I’ll finish this article with a quick reminder…
Open space coaching can happen anywhere you like. We don’t have to be in the same location. It’s just as effective walking and talking on our mobiles with headphones.
If you like the idea and want to try it out, get in touch with me here.