While we understand that an addictive personality can help you be more productive, an addiction to cigarettes brings with it many downfalls, like lung disease, lowered immune function, and loss of vocal ability. It can also lend itself to counter-productivity, as smoke breaks can often break up a day and cause you to lose momentum on a project.
Toxic air pollutants are released by cigarettes and contribute to environmental issues. And, if you work in a space with other people, you may be harming them more than you know.
For years, we have understood the power in distraction for addiction. That’s why it was no surprise that scientists reasoned that there was a link between people living closer to nature or lush outdoor space and distraction from bad habits.
Addictions fall to the wayside, of course, when you take advantage of the outdoor space and keep yourself busy on trails, working out, and with other activities.
The health benefits of breathing fresh air are already boundless on their own as well. Food is digested better, it helps to strengthen the immune system, and can improve blood flow. Taking deep breaths outside can help your lungs reach fuller capacity and increases their cleansing function, allowing the release of more airborne toxins from our chest cavities.
But more recently – and probably more particularly because of the pandemic – people are starting to notice a connection between the mere presence of greenery in their space and kicking their habits, namely smoking.
Just this year, the University of Plymouth conducted a study that linked living in green areas to lower smoking rates. The research was created with study groups in England and engineered to be universally adaptable.
Accounting for income, education, and socio economic status, residents living surrounded by greenery are 20% less likely to smoke than their counterparts in more densely populated or urban areas. Of those polled, people who had quit smoking previously had a 10-12% higher chance of residing in a greener habitat.
University of Aarhus in Denmark recently conducted a study that found that psychiatric disorders are often linked to people who grew up in homes with less exposure to greenery. According to NASA:
The scientists found that citizens who grew up with the least green space nearby had as much as a 55% increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in later years… Green space most strongly protects against mood disorders, depression, neurotic behavior, and stress-related issues, the study found, signaling that psychological restoration may be the strongest protective mechanism that green space offers. The effect of green space is also dose-dependent, meaning those who have longer exposures to green space have greater mental health benefits.
Just let yourself experience how you feel when you are out in nature. Has it ever felt overwhelmingly uncomfortable or unhealthy? Don’t you “go outside to get some air” when you need some clarity? Do you often go inside with a worse mindset? It is no wonder that people who live fast-paced lifestyles in more urban landscapes often retire – when they’re lucky enough to do so – to more rural areas.
Activities your younger self may have scoffed at may begin to appeal to you when you realize how recharged you feel in a natural landscape. Don’t make fun of that birdwatcher, plant lover, or friend who enjoys taking pictures of hummingbirds from their hammock swing just yet.
Even if none of the aforementioned turned out to be true, fresh oxygen gives your brain a boost of serotonin. This is a universal truth. Why else would Times Square and the Las Vegas Strip pump oxygen into their stores and hallways? They want to keep you awake and refreshed. Fresh air literally makes you happy. And that’s something we all need a little bit more of right now.
If you have limited access to green space and resources, make sure to give yourself mental health breaks throughout the day to help curb those cravings. Adding a plant or two to your space while working on skills to kick your addiction is also a positive option.