Why does even the smallest daily interaction with nature feel so great?
I'm sure I'm not the only one to feel totally rubbish if I've been stuck inside all day staring at the computer screen. Tired eyes, a bit grumpy and all together fed up.
Our modern urban lives have us peddling on the proverbial hamster wheel at what feels like a million miles an hour and I'm often desperate to get off - even if it's only for a little while - sound familiar? When I'm feeling drained and robotic, there is only one saviour - getting outside, feeling the fresh air on my face and breathing.
On a given day, us Brits spend on average a depressingly small 8% of our waking hours outdoors (and yes this even includes walking to the bus and nipping to the shop from the car, so not exactly quality time!) and despite positive news that the time we are spending outside and in nature is improving, it can still be tricky to get out there and get your nature fix - especially during the working week.
But even if I have the smallest of windows and the weather is less that favourable I just have to cram in some much needed nature time to my day. I know it seems to improve my mood no end but apparently it's not just me, even the scientists say so too with research showing that even seeing a natural landscape results in your brain producing increased amounts of the 'happy chemical' Serotonin - bonus! - lowers your blood pressure and tops up your Vitamin D levels. It really is a natural anti-depressant and total stress buster, how flipping brilliant is that!?
Knowing how good it makes me feel, I wondered how much outside time was enough to get these positive physical effects and after a bit of reading it seems like anything from 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week up to regular weekend jaunts to the woods or countryside will do the trick. What seems to be key is our ability to make these interactions with the outside world part of our normal, everyday lifestyle.
So, I'm going to make a concerted effort to up my nature time. Here are a few ways I'm going to be pushing to help me enjoy more regular nature fixes - fancy giving some a go?
A spot of fresh air at lunchtime - Whilst the days I freelance or work from home seem to be fine, on the days I teach at the University it's really hard to grab 5 mins to yourself, even at lunch, as working part time means go! go! go! to get it all done in the time you have. So, I'm going to work on escaping to grab at least a few minutes of fresh air on my brake as I know it will make my afternoons 10x better!
Look up from my phone - I'm really lucky that a chunk of my daily commute is on foot and takes me through two parks BUT often I'm checking e-mails on the go and actually barely take any of my surroundings in. I know this isn't great so I'm really going to try and look up more and take in all the lovely tress, flowers and wildlife that are passing me by.
Update my front step - I love gardening, but it often gets sidelined for other things. On the occasions the bulbs and other plants in the pots around my front step and the window-boxes are in bloom the little pick me up on the way in and out of the house is blissful. Why then do I not make sure there are flowers blooming there all the time? Who knows...I feel a trip to the garden centre coming on!
Hopefully these small steps will help to connect me further with the outside world and tune out for a few moments. I'd love to hear your experiences of switching off and getting outside - any top tips to share?