The Benefits of being in (and surrounding yourself) with Nature
Taking care of our health can be a tough task. We’re constantly reminded to eat healthy, go to the gym, de-stress, turn off our phones from time-to-time and the list goes on...
Luckily there's an easy, simple and cheap way of looking after your health!
DID YOU KNOW that nature offer one of the most reliable boosts to our mental and physical well-being?!
Spending time in nature – whether in a botanical garden, a forest, or simply in your own lush garden, can provide quite a few potential benefits!
Studies show that being in nature or even just viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, anxiety and stress.
Spending time in nature reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones....and more!
Bet you didn't know this!
TOP 10 HEALTH BENEFITS OF BEING IN NATURE:
1. Stress Relief:
Tensed and stressed?....Head for the trees!
One study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol (a hormone often used as a marker for stress).
Among office workers, even the view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.
2. Better sleep:
Being in nature can increase sleep quality. This is partly due to stress reduction, but also because exposure to sunlight during the day can increase your melatonin production at night. (Melatonin is needed to regulate your sleep cycle).
Poor sleep is also often caused by poor sleep patterns. Our sleep patterns are regulated by an internal body clock called the circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythms are naturally tied to the sun’s schedule. Spending too much time inside – away from natural light and with increased exposure to artificial light - can alter our circadian rhythms, (thus disrupting our sleep patterns).
(Photo: shared from www.insideout.com.au)
3. Clean Air:
As it turns out, outdoor pollution is bad for your health, but indoor pollutants are far worse!
The EPA New England states that indoor pollutants are normally 2 to 5 (and up to 100) times higher than outdoor pollutants!
If you don’t like inhaling poison, get outside!
4. Much needed Exercise:
Want to live longer? Get outside!
Getting outside usually involves some level of exercise, even if it’s just a short walk or doing some weeding in the garden. Even 15 – 30 minutes of exercise each day has long-term benefits for your mind and body, and decreases your risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis!
5. Get your Vitamin D fix:
This is perhaps the most obvious reason to get outside, since the sun supplies us with best source of Vitamin D.
We all need just 10 – 15 minutes of sunlight per day for our bodies to produce the proper levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D has a wide range of health benefits. It also helps boost our immune systems.
Get outside in the garden more often and treat yourself to some vitamin D!
(Photo: shared from Avantgardens)
6. Improved Eyesight:
Do you sometimes suffer from blurred vision, double vision, dry/red eyes, eye irritation, headaches, and neck or back pain?
Getting outside can improve your eye health! So much time behind a screen can take its toll on your eyesight. Spending time outdoors gives your eyes a chance to focus on objects farther away. This can reduce eye-strain.
7. Sharper thinking & Creativity:
"Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost."
That's the dramatic opening to a 2008 paper describing the promise of so-called "nature therapy" — or, as a non-academic might call it, "time outside."
Researchers in the US and Germany found that being in nature helps improve creativity. The German study showed that even looking at the colour green for a few seconds triggered greater creativity than other colours.
8. Improved short-term memory:
In one study, University of Michigan students were given a brief memory test, then divided into two groups.
One group took a walk around an arboretum, and the other half took a walk down a city street. When the participants returned and did the test again, those who had walked among trees did almost 20% percent better than the first time. The ones who had taken in city sights instead did not consistently improve.
(Photo: April Bencze, Wildlife photography)
9. Reduced inflammation:
Inflammation is a natural process the body uses to respond to threats like damage (e.g. a stubbed toe) and pathogens (e.g. exposure to the flu).
But when inflammation goes into overdrive, it's associated in varying degrees with, amongst other things, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and cancer. Spending time in nature may be one way to help keep it in check.
10. Improved mental health:
Are you aware of the massively beneficial effects getting outside can have on our mental well-being?
Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may all be eased by some time in the great outdoors — especially when that's combined with exercise.
One study found that walks in the forest were specifically associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be "useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments" for major depressive disorder.
It was also found that the presence of water made the positive effects even stronger.
Spending time in nature has furthermore been linked to: improved attention spans (short and long term), boosts in serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitter) and shows increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability, and love.
If you’re feeling down, get outside!
11. Closer Relationships:
We all spend so much time in front of a screen – whether in front of the TV at home, or working in front of a computer for most of the day. Getting out into nature is a great way to reconnect with family and friends and catch up in person.
HOW TO LET THE GREEN IN AT HOME:
These days there are so many impressive ideas on how to improve the architecture of your existing home to encourage more outdoor living and to better your entertaining experience.
By creating amazing indoor-outdoor spaces, the usual boundary between inside and outside blurs in the best possible way! These homes are primed for entertaining thanks to their seamless connection to their living and outdoor areas.
These days we see many homes connecting the living, kitchen and dining area (mostly open-plan) with the backyard by means of either sliding / accordion glass doors - being pushed back to transform the home into the ultimate entertaining zone (especially if connected to the outdoor braai and dining area).
Combine it with a covered outdoor section to provide protection from the elements, and you have an entertainer’s paradise!
Or why not design an interior courtyard as an extension of your open-plan dining, kitchen and living space to create more room for entertaining in a small space and to add light, privacy and a sense of nature indoors?
Or just image a idyllic kitchen seamlessly connecting the indoors with the lush backyard garden, by means of a sliding/folding wall pushed aside to connect the indoor and outdoor area - making it feel like one big space!
Or massive pivoting doors that can disappear in an instant to embrace the idea of blurring the line between being outside or inside?!
(Photo: shared from Australian House & Garden)
(Photo: shared from House and Leisure)
*You can furthermore enhance your indoor-outdoor experience by ATTRACTING SOME WILDLIFE to your garden:
Plant some BIRD-FRIENDLY PLANTS:
Aloes, Cape Honeysuckle, Watsonias, Leonotis, and red-hot pokers will attract nectar feeding birds such as the Sunbird.
Seed eating birds are attracted to the seed heads of grasses and grains. They also love daisies (such as the Euryops daisy). Leave the dried out dead heads of daisies for as long as you can to give the birds time to take most of the seed at the end of summer.
To attract fruit eating birds, plant some fruit producing plants. Try White stinkwood (Celtis africana), Tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida), or Dune crow-berry (Rhus crenata).
Also remember that established trees will naturally provide a source of shelter and roosting spots for many birds and a garden which is well planted with indigenous trees will attract numerous birds throughout the year.
Every garden should also have a bird bath in the quieter part of the garden preferably near thick foliage and established trees.
(Photo: Alan Rudnicki)
So, get HEALTHY and treat yourself to some valuable OUTDOOR time!