How the Great Outdoors Can Lead to Great Meeting Outcomes

Scientific research underscores the power of open-air gatherings to boost mental health and inspire creative thinking.

When the pandemic radically altered the landscape of face-to-face events, many meetings moved as much content as possible outdoors for safety’s sake. And while outdoor programming certainly reduces the risk of virus exposure given what we know about COVID-19 transmission, it’s valuable for attendees and organizations alike in many more ways, too. With beautiful, fall weather right around the corner, many are taking advantage of the transition outdoors.

As one example, Greater Palm Springs naturally supports outdoor gatherings with a diverse array of outdoor venues and active offerings, such as hiking, biking, and ATV tours, along with warm weather that allows for open-air events throughout the fall, winter and spring. These events get attendees’ blood pumping, clear their minds and generally support mental and physical health.

“Remember recess? You couldn’t wait to get outside of the classroom, and the mere thought of it made you excitedly smile,” says Lauren Del Sarto, the founder and publisher of Desert Health, a leading health and wellness resource in Greater Palm Springs. “The same thing can happen when you announce to your team that today’s meeting will be held outdoors under a big tree or in chairs on a grassy lawn. That’s because being in nature naturally reduces stress, promotes wellness and energizes creativity.”

Consider the practice known as forest bathing, inspired by a Japanese concept born out of necessity amid a national health crisis in the 1990s, according to Harvard Medical School, and now embraced widely in the U.S. It’s all about getting outdoors, listening to bird songs and otherwise embracing a mindful, multisensory experience of the outdoors.

The benefits are straightforward and supported by science: Levels of the hormone cortisol decreased in test subjects after a walk in the forest, compared with people who walked in a laboratory setting. Stress raises cortisol levels, and elevated cortisol can contribute to wide-ranging health issues over the long term, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and headaches.

Being outdoors—not simulating the experience—yields these benefits.

Among the many reasons outdoor environments support successful meetings — especially when coupled with physical activity — is that such programs require mindfulness from attendees. That is to say, these facets, by definition, require attendees to engage and focus on the present moment rather than allow their minds to wander to yesterday’s email or tomorrow’s bottom line. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness has wide-ranging benefits, including increasing cognitive flexibility and insight, both key to meetings that drive results and build relationships.

“Creating an outdoor activity for your team not only enhances camaraderie but also oxygenates cells to bring fresh, revitalized minds to the table,” Del Sarto says. “Getting blood moving is always positive for mind, body and soul, but the activity doesn’t have to be strenuous. Connecting with the earth or practicing breath work also enhances oxygen intake—and mood—and can have a similar effect.”

Note that the mere practice of “earthing,” or physically connecting the body to the earth through bare feet, also has proven health benefits, according to research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

It all comes down to this: The benefits of outdoor meetings are well established, they’re wide-ranging—and they’re real.

“[Greater Palm Springs] attracts people from all over the world who come here for health, healing, wellness and relaxation,” Del Sarto explains. “Since the 1920s, doctors have ‘prescribed’ the desert’s dry, warm climate for those with breathing and other chronic conditions.”

She notes that groups in the area have access to a range of offerings, including rustic desert retreats, healing hot springs, golf galore, world-class spas, and even bird sanctuaries. Specifically, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, the vast Empire Polo Club, and the heart-pumping Palm Springs Aerial Tramway are among the region’s unique offerings.

Additionally, Greater Palm Springs offers uncommonly rich access to a wide range of expert health-and-wellness practitioners who can lead meditation, yoga, breathwork and fitness classes. Options for team building programs and activities abound, like horseback riding, biking, hiking, and Jeep rides, such as via the area’s Red Jeep Tours attraction.

Whatever the specifics, outdoor environments coupled with physical activities offer science-backed boons to mental and physical health. When attendees are primed for clear, present and engaged creative thinking, meetings are most successful. And when meetings succeed, organizations win.

This article was written by Visit Greater Palm Springs. Our team is ready to assist you in creating inspirational, unforgettable—and safe—meetings. With year-round sunshine and unlimited outdoor space, the options for your next Southern California meeting or event are endless. Book with confidence, knowing the safety of your attendees is a top priority for our destination.


(Visit Greater Palm Springs)