Bunchberry Meadows (Photo by NCC)

Bunchberry Meadows (Photo by NCC)

Environmental energy boost

Trailing plant (Photo by Robert Wolcheck)

Trailing plant (Photo by Robert Wolcheck)

Molly Dube is the 2019 communications intern for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Alberta Region. She is currently studying natural resource conservation at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Molly is passionate about Canadian conservation and environmental protection. Her goal is to communicate conservation information in a way that will get people excited, inspired to learn more and take action.

You’re banking those recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. You’re making sure to eat a vegetable or two every day. You’re exercising. You’re on it.

So why is it that every day after lunch you feel like you’re moving through molasses?

It’s not just you. This particular beast has many names: The 2:30 pm Feeling, The Afternoon Slump, Mid-day Sleepiness.

It’s our circadian rhythm — the change in our body's temperature and hormones that determine whether we feel awake or sleepy. This natural internal clock creates a strong desire to sleep at two times during the day: once in the middle of the night and the other in the early afternoon. The problem is that most people aren’t free to take a nap when early afternoon rolls around.

Even though this slump is natural, it’s not very helpful for productivity. There are few ways to use nature and the environment to give you a little boost to get through the afternoon. It’ll also give you a happiness and overall mood boost too!

The secret is a combination of three things:

1.    Plants
2.    Moving around
3.    Getting outside

Seems simple, right? Let’s get started.

Use plants

Having even a little bit of greenery, like a desk plant at work, will create a number of positive effects on your health. Having a green leafy friend at work will reduce stress, increase your productivity and boost your creativity.

As well as giving your brain and body a boost, many plants purify the air and filter out toxins. This graphic shows the best air-cleaning plants, according to NASA.

Sunday park (Photo by Konstantin Stepanov)

Sunday park (Photo by Konstantin Stepanov)

Taking a moment to view and admire nature also increases your attention by giving your brain a break, which helps you focus on tasks for longer. Try a “green micro-break.”  Take 30 seconds and stare at your desk plant. Admire your desk plant. You’re keeping that organism alive. Take pride in that accomplishment.

Not working? Try drinking your plants

As healthy as a green smoothie is, there are plants that are much better tasting and that will give you more energy than wheatgrass or kale. There are only two plants that are guaranteed to get you through the afternoon — Coffea aribica and Camellia sinensis — or coffee and tea. A little caffeine kick helps with mid-afternoon sleepiness.

Move your body

Even standing up will make a difference when sleepiness hits. Try some stretches or taking a quick walk around the office or your block. If you’re feeling especially ready to fight to fatigue, walk up and down a couple of flights of stairs.

Eat lunch outdoors

Getting away from the screens and artificial lighting and into the sunlight will wake you up and energize you. Having your lunch outside at a nearby park will be extra rejuvenating. A fun way to do this is to have an office picnic once a week, so you and your co-workers can enjoy a break in nature together.

Go for a walk in the park or green space

One of the best ways to hold back that sleepiness is combining all three factors. Take a walk in a nearby park or green space. You’ll get your body moving, and trade neutral-toned walls and cubicles for clear blue skies and parks. You’ll also have the added benefit of natural sunlight and fresh air. If you can’t get outside and go for a walk, find a window with lots of natural light and channel your inner tree and soak up the sunshine!

All in all, the best way to fight nature is with more nature.

The Conservation Internship Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Summer Work Experience program.

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