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Being cooped up indoors is unpleasant, to say the least.
When you’re kept away from fresh air, green trees, and bright sunlight, it takes a toll on you and your body. Over long periods, you feel anxious, depressed, and lethargic. Your body’s various systems respond by increasing blood pressure, tensing up muscles, and producing stress hormones.
The good news is that these effects can quickly go away with exposure to a better environment. When stressed or unhappy, people often flock to nature for refuge. People are universally drawn to natural settings for the sense of calm and overall well-being they provide.
Nature impacts us both physically and mentally. When we go outside, we feel better right away.
Here are some emotional benefits from nature:
- It reduces stress and anxiety.
- It distracts us from pain and hardships.
- It provides a sense of calm from observing the slow and steady plant growth.
Here are some physical benefits from nature:
- It reduces blood pressure and lowers heart rate.
- It releases muscle tension and slows our breathing rate.
- It allows us to recuperate and recovery our energy levels.
As you can see, the emotional and physical benefits are very much interrelated. What we feel impacts how our body functions. Not only does nature restore our general mood and health, but it helps us perform better at work as well.
One study found that taking a break to view nature increases our ability to focus later on. Participants who viewed grassy scenes had lower omission errors and responded more consistently than participants who viewed concrete scenes. The researchers theorized that nature restores our energy, allowing us to concentrate better on tasks.
We know that natural settings are beneficial for our mood, health, and work. But how do you implement nature when you’re stuck indoors? Here are four ways:
1. Surround yourself with nature images.
Studies have shown that simply viewing nature images can produce a calming effect. Within three seconds of viewing natural landscapes, mood improves. Blood pressure, breathing rates, and stress levels decrease.
The good news is that you can experience many of nature’s positive effects without physically being outdoors. You can incorporate more nature inside your home or office by putting up posters or paintings of landscapes. Think forests, grass, or flowers. Water provides further calming effects, such as pictures that include rivers and lakes.
2. Work in areas with more natural daylight.
The diurnal light cycle is directly related to the biological cycles that we and other animals experience on Earth. However, modern technology, such as the advent of phones, computers, and lights, has wreaked havoc in some ways on our biological processes. These various forms of artificial lighting disrupt our sleep patterns and impact our moods.
In one study, lack of exposure to natural light was related to depressive symptoms and poor quality of sleep. When working, look for areas that give more exposure to natural daylight. In buildings, the south side sees the most sunlight, especially in the Northern Hemisphere.
3. Move your activities outside.
Just because you’re stuck indoors doesn’t mean you lack access to an outdoor space. Maybe you have a yard in your home, a balcony to step out on, or a nearby public space you can visit. The change in scenery and fresh air will make you feel better.
Instead of simply viewing these spaces from indoors, try moving regular activities outside. You can start eating meals on an outdoor table, read on your patio, or do stretches in an outdoor space. You would have done these activities indoors anyway, so why not move them outside and feel the difference?
4. Create a “healing space”.
Healing gardens are gardens set within healthcare facilities, hospitals, and clinics to promote healing and therapy. They provide patients, families, and staff members with stress relief, reduction in symptoms, and a sense of hope. The concept of healing gardens is not new.
The ancient Greeks built healing temples for Aesclepius, the god of medicine and healing, which featured wide vistas, forests, and clear water. The Quakers revered gardens as a place of creativity. In Philadelphia’s Friends Hospital, a therapeutic program that used plants was set up in 1879 after a physician noticed that patients working in the hospital gardens were calmer and felt better afterward.
You can create your own healing space, indoors or outdoors, by growing a few plants of your own. You can grow flowers, vegetables, or herbs such as mint, chives, or thyme. For easy-to-maintain indoor plants, try the aloe, rubber plant, spider plant, or a bonsai.
When creating a healing space, be sure to pick a quiet area away from traffic or other “city” noises. Putting in a seating area will allow you and others to rest and observe nature. Running water, such as a small indoor fountain, creates another element of peacefulness.
Now is the Time to Enjoy Nature
It’s not always easy to modify your habits, even if it’s for the better. Sometimes, we need a small push to get going and change directions. But if there’s any time that’s right for enjoying more nature, it’s right now.
Now is the time to get outside and breathe fresh air. Now is the time to enjoy the natural sunlight. Now is the time to nurture greens and experience their beneficial effects.
It may take some effort to experience nature fully, but you will get there by taking a step towards it today. In the end, both your body and your mind will thank you for it.
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams – Learn about how the natural world improves your health, promotes creativity, allows reflection, and strengthens interpersonal relationships. The author explores the phenomenon and power of nature from forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to eucalyptus groves in California.
Bonsai Starter Kit – Contains everything you need to grow four bonsai trees.
Indoor Relaxation Illuminated Waterfall – Decorative tabletop fountain that brings calm to an indoor environment.