Beat the January Blues with biophilia

January might be a time of new beginnings, but it’s also the time of the year when life can get you down. With the fun-filled festive season done and dusted and people heading back to work (often in the cold, dark mornings), it’s safe to assume that we’ve all experienced the January Blues at some point or another. As a matter of fact, Blue Monday (called ‘the most depressing day of the year’) occurs every January (boo hoo!) The reason this is the most depressing day is due to a combination of factors.

According to British psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall, these are the weather, debt, the amount of time since Christmas, the fact that many of us have failed our New Year’s resolutions, and low motivational levels.This year, Blue Monday will fall on the 21st January, on the third Monday of the month.

Fortunately, introducing plants and natural elements to the workplace is one way businesses can help their employees to beat those dreaded January Blues!

We all know that plants and greenery are beneficial for our health. They improve the quality of the air we breathe by raising its humidity, and effectively filtering dust, mould, bacteria, carbon dioxide (CO2) and everyday toxins (found in items such as paints, paper bags and tissues) from it. Although we come into contact with these on a daily basis, they can cause a number of symptoms that make us generally feel unwell. These include headaches, nausea, a runny nose and sore throat. However, there’s a good reason why we feel so happy when walking through a greenery filled park or receiving a fresh bouquet of flowers from a loved one – and that reason is a little something called biophilia.

So, what is biophilia? Coined by the psychologist Erin Fromm, who first used the term in his work, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness in 1964, it can be described as the “passionate love of life and all that is alive”. In simpler terms, this means that humans have a natural connection with nature, as well as a biological need to be close to it. This could explain why greenery is so beneficial to our health and happiness.

There is plenty of research that proves the benefits of plants, particularly in workplaces. Just one study conduced by Dr Chris Knight and a team of fellow psychologists at Exeter University found that workers were 15% more productive when their workplace was filled with just a few plants and greenery. Other studies have also concluded that plants can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

One of the most obvious ways of adding more natural elements to your workplace is by investing in a number of indoor plants and dotting them around the building. According to NASA’s famous Clean Air Study from 1989, some of the best air filtering plants include the Boston Fern, Spider Plant, Peace Lily, English Ivy and Weeping Fig, making them great options to consider if you want to boost the happiness and health of your workers during Blue January and beyond.

According to a 2002 study, ‘Effects of the foliage plant on task performance and mood’, the bigger the plant, the better the mood of the participants. If you have limited floorspace but still want to reap the benefits of office greenery, consider installing a living wall in your building. This is fitted to a wall using a unique and intricate bracket system, giving the impression that flowers are growing out of it!

Finally, another easy way you can incorporate biophilia into your office design this month is by adding items made from natural materials and textures, such as wood. These include desks, chairs, ornaments and even the blinds on your windows.

For those lucky enough to have a garden, there’s also nothing like getting fresh air when doing gentle exercise or having a clear up!

On a related note, having a clean-up to keep your windows free of clutter will also let as much natural sunlight into the room as possible. This is advisable as frequent exposure to sunlight can improve sleep and the effects of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). According to the NHS, a persistent low mood and feelings of despair are two of the main symptoms of SAD. This is theorised to be due to lower serotonin levels thanks to a lack of sunlight in the colder months, which may be a key contributor to the January Blues!