From gardening to sitting on your garden bench taking ’10 minutes’ to unfurl after a busy day at the office, there are many ways we can enjoy the great outdoors. And the good news is, to soak up these health benefits, you don’t have to be exercising. Although activity is great for mind, body and soul – because simply sitting, enjoying the garden the peace and tranquillity, and nature all around us is beneficial.
But how do we really benefit from being outdoors?
No wonder so many of us stay indoors. From allergens that cause seasonal allergies to scary creepy crawlies – there is so much outdoors that can put us off being outside.
But let’s think about it – many offices, shopping centres and the like use air conditioning units to ‘purify’ air but the problem is, this recycled air is also lacking in the good stuff.
Being outside means you expose yourself to everything air has to offer. Frankly, is there anything better than sucking in a lungful of after being stuck in the office for what seems like days on end.
Indoor pollution can be just as bad as outdoor pollution, such as car exhaust fumes etc. Indoors without adequate ventilation, there can be fumes from paints, household cleaners, as well as personal products.
From aching bones to sleeplessness, the signs of a deficiency in vitamin D are masked by other symptoms too. Whilst we search for an answer to feeling below par, the answer may be closer than we think.
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because it is made under the skin when sunlight falls on it. And no, wearing sunscreen doesn’t impair its manufacture.
The lack of sunlight in winter gives seasonal affected disorder or SAD and has been strongly linked to lack of vitamin D.
And so, sitting on garden benches in a public park at lunchtime or enjoying the sun as you as potter in the garden, all contribute to getting your daily dose of this important vitamin.
We’ve just mentioned SAD and how lack of sunlight contributes to poor mood, and this is something that is scientifically proven.
Having said that, science is a long way off explaining how exactly being outdoors lifts our mood. We know that it can help with vitamin D levels. But there is also the effect on our positive mood hormones and indicators too.
Of course, it is not a catch-all and just because the sun is out doesn’t mean you have to be happy. But many people find a ray of sunshine and a clear blue sky does lift their mood a little if you stop long enough to notice it of course…
Recently, we have talked more openly about mental issues that affect us from time to time. One issue that has come to the fore is anxiety.
Feeling anxious happens for all kinds of reasons. Feeling uncertain, for example, that we have made the right decision about something. But there are also times when this feeling happens for no apparent reason.
A stroll in the great outdoors has been shown to soothe feelings of anxiety, as can sitting on garden benches at home, in the park, by the sea and so on.
Being outside lends itself to creativity, one reason why many schools now teach aside and businesses facilitate ‘walking meetings’.
But again, this is not to suggest that the garden and outdoors is the cure to all anxiety and stress.
We don’t understand everything about life and the universe. And yet, the pace and relentlessness of modern life often mean that we feel we should know everything. Everything has a reason, a place and a time.
The processes of grounding – or earthing, as it is sometimes known – allows us, for a few moments, to let go of what should or must be, and sink into nature and everything that it offers. It means letting go, similar to the deeper state that meditation offers.
Being outdoors helps us stay fit in mind, body and soul. When was the last time you enjoyed sitting in your garden, doing ‘nothing’ but unwinding?
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.