I’m quite lucky at the moment because I get to spend a lot of time outdoors. We are currently living in an area of gardens and holiday cottages. The house is pretty small and the weather is good so we end up spending a lot of time outdoors. Actually, I’m writing these words while sitting outside, listening to the birds, and watching the sunset. It’s amazing to be able to do that and I know I don’t do it often enough.
The reason I’m talking about sitting outside is that we, as humans, need to spend time outdoors, in nature. Our brains need to see natural environments in order to be healthy and cope with stress and anxiety. Researchers from the University of Exeter even went as far as saying that we are like animals in a zoo, trapped in urban environments, without access to nature.
Making time for nature
I know that I’m very privileged to be sitting outside, where the air is clean, the temperature is okay, and it’s safe. I have been to areas where I couldn’t just stroll around outside for one reason or another. And these environments stress me. I’m more agitated, can’t focus and I get tired pretty quickly. If I’m unlucky I also get sick a lot.
Having had those experiences I know that I need to make time to be in nature. As a family, we often go on camping trips. They are usually short ones, for a weekend most of the time, but they are enough for me to gain some perspective. And they give me something to look forward to.
But it doesn’t even need to be a camping trip per se. A walk in the forest, on the beach, on a plain is enough to re-experience our position in the world. A walk in a forest is relaxing, staring at the ocean calms nerves, even a walk in the rain can be cleansing.
And if going outside is not an option, an indoor pot plant will do the trick. Even an indoor plant helps to stay healthy, especially mentally.
Why we need to make time for nature
When I say healthy I mean a variety of things. For starters, our houses tend to have contaminated air. Indoor air is often a mix of off-gasses from carpets, walls, and furniture. And these off-gases are coupled with lower levels of oxygen which contributes to tiredness. Air quality in rural environments, on the other hand, have no off-gases and higher levels of oxygen. Plus, sunlight lightens our moods and regulates our internal clocks of awake and sleep times.
Researchers also link a disconnection to nature to a general feeling of unhappiness, increased levels of anxiety, aggressive behaviour, depression, and even eating disorders. In general, limiting our exposure to the outdoors is more than a philosophical exercise but something we need to stay healthy.
How to make room for nature
As I said, camping trips or any other regular outdoor activity is a great way to increase time spent in nature. However, I know that that’s not always possible. The easiest solution is to get a plant. Having a plant is a mini-step in enhancing our relationship with nature.
A living plant will contribute to better indoor air quality. Looking at it will help you to calm your mind and focus again. There are plenty of examples of green offices and green indoor spaces. And for good reason. Companies have discovered that green anything will enhance people’s mood and creativity.
But still, that can’t keep me indoors for long. I love going for walks, playing outside, enjoying the weather (I like rain!) and putting myself into the granter perspective of the whole.