5 ways to bring the outside in and lap up nature
Having lived through a pandemic and endless lockdowns spent inside, many of us will have developed a new found love for the great outdoors. Especially those who aren’t blessed with a garden or outdoor space at their home. In fact, one in eight UK households didn’t have access to a private or communal garden during the lockdowns, according to the Office for National Statistics (1).
There’s a reason why, in the UK, we were given the opportunity to head outside for an hour of exercise during the first covid-19 lockdown. It’s because being outside can have a huge benefit on both body and mind (2).
Fresh air, a cool breeze, the warm sun (or not so warm, as the case may be!), and greenery all contribute to the state of our health (3).
Research has proven on several occasions that being surrounded by nature, at your local park for example, can help lower stress levels, boost immunity (4) and even lower the risk of potentially fatal illnesses (5) .
In fact, a huge study conducted in 2019 found that just 120 minutes a week spent in nature was beneficial for health and wellbeing (6).
But if you’re working from home, or stuck inside with limited access to outside space, there are a number of ways that you can bring the outside in and reap the many health benefits.
Stock up on houseplants
The sale of houseplants has increased dramatically over recent years, as people try to bring the outside in. But whilst a splash of greenery might look lovely, livening up even the dullest of rooms, houseplants also provide a multitude of health benefits.
These health benefits could be the reason why fascinating research has proven that those who have nine houseplants, take fewer sick days (7).
Research has also found that houseplants can help reduce stress, something which 79% of Brits suffer from at least once a month (8). If you work from home, you may often find that your productivity takes a nosedive due to distractions around the house. Luckily, evidence points towards houseplants being a useful tool in actually improving productivity. This applies to rooms with no windows too (9).
If you’re not naturally green fingered, opt for hardier plants that require less care. Good options include Chinese Money Plants, Spider Plants and Peace Lillies.
Open the windows
With the seasons changing and temperatures warming up, it’s time to let the fresh air in by opening up windows.
Feeling a natural breeze can not only help to shake off any cobwebs, but it can also help in the morning, to wake us up.
Opening windows and letting the air in is an ideal way to help lessen or remove any mould from your indoor environment too. Plus, it helps to remove toxins and smells from the home.
Try opening windows first thing when the air is naturally cleaner because as the day progresses, car fumes and other pollutants can fill the air. This is especially important for anyone who lives in a city or on a busy road.
Grow a herb garden
Although they are much like houseplants, herb gardens offer a slightly smaller alternative to bringing the outside indoors. Plus, herbs such as coriander, basil and oregano are great to use when cooking to add extra flavour and health benefits to dishes, the natural way. They help save money too!
A herb garden is also an ideal opportunity for children to get a little green-fingered as they can become involved in caring for the small, easy-to-maintain herbs.
Try a SAD lamp
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects three in 100 people in the UK (10). It can result in a low mood, low energy and a general feeling of lethargy. Although they are certainly not just useful for those suffering from this form of depression, SAD lamps basically emulate sunlight and help to release the feel-good hormone serotonin. This hormone is released when we spend time in the sun. In the UK, during the colder months, sunlight hours are shorter, so a SAD lamp can help inject some much-needed light into your life. For those who work indoors a lot, and therefore miss out on the sun, a SAD lamp can also be useful.
Go for green
The colour green is typically associated with nature and being outdoors, so injecting some green into your home is an easy way to feel the nature. Try changing your screen background to green, hanging up green, nature-filled artwork on the walls, and even opting for green tablecloths, towels and cushions.
They may seem simple, but research has proven how the colour green can help improve physical health (11), whilst a specific study found that just looking at nature pictures can improve our attention span (12).