How Outdoor Living Spaces Can Drastically Improve Your Health
Aside from the aesthetic, there are a plethora of benefits to spending time within your patio area. Staying inside your house for long hours is definitely not beneficial for your health. Surprisingly, these benefits affect our HEALTH as well as WEALTH.
Who would have thought?
If you’re a family who spends most of their time with all the mod-cons and luxuries of the indoors, you might wonder why on earth people would choose to splurge on outdoor furniture , fire pits, hammocks, heaters and lighting as opposed to a top-of-the-range Smart Tv or Bluetooth Speakers.
It would appear that savvy homeowners are creating home-oasis’ in their backyard. And in doing so, they are improving the value of their home substantially. Also they improve their physical and emotional health. This is something which a new 50-inch screen in the lounge room wouldn’t do.
You should realize that being outside is not only fun and enjoyable, but also healthy. It is a proven scientific fact. Moreover, it is healthy for both our brain and our bodies. The benefits are invaluable and impossible to replicate indoors or with man-made creations. It, thus, makes sense to include outdoor living in your weekly routine as much as possible.
Proximity to nature can boost our psychological and mental health. By being in the presence of trees and greenery, we can increase the production of feel-good brain chemicals. These chemicals are such as serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. The key to strengthening these chemicals is by focusing on positive thoughts and feelings.
Studies show that being outdoors provides more positive feelings than any urban or interior setting. Moreover, every type of green environment can improve both self-esteem and mood. Water in close proximity multiplies these positive feelings. Being outdoors can lower stress-inducing chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline. In addition, it increase our feelings of empathy and love. Whereas, being indoors can increase feelings of anxiety and fear.
Most people are aware that being in the outdoors promotes good overall physical health. Experience in nature improves memory and brain function. Limited exposure to early or late sun delivers essential Vitamin D, which is paramount to maintaining optimal health. Vitamin D is central to fighting conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. Even healing after operations is deemed to be faster when exposed to natural light.
Technically, Vitamin D is present in food, but very few of us get enough in our diet. Our skin makes up for the deficiency naturally when it’s exposed to UVB light. However, the use of sunscreen knocks Vitamin D synthesis down by 100% (using factor 30+), so it’s no surprise that Vitamin D deficiency is widespread, especially in northern latitudes (one study found that over 75% of Americans were deficient).
Ironically, Vitamin D deficiency is a much more significant cause of cancer (as well as other chronic diseases, including multiple sclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease) than sunlight exposure.
In summary, humans are designed to spend a little time in the sun. Too little sun exposure leaves us at high risk for Vitamin D deficiency, while too much is possibly dangerous as well. Utilizing an outdoor area in your home with optional shade is the perfect place to absorb some health-promoting vitamin D.
If you do your gardening or the landscaping of your outdoor area, you’ll also benefit from the exercise. Gardening and landscaping require a moderate amount of exercise- digging, raking, kneeling and lifting equipment repetitively for hours at a time increases blood flow and heart rate while also working the muscles. Gardening also builds hand strength dexterity. Gardening conditions the hand muscles, keeping them strong and agile.
Fresh air has its benefits, and its importance is often underestimated. Many homes, especially during winter, are shut up for the day. This results in oxygen levels depleting and chemical levels increasing. There are fumes in our plastics, mattresses, furniture and even carpet. Even plastic bags omit fumes. Getting outside and away from these chemicals and fumes will help clear your mind and body and give it a well-earned break from the toxicity of the home.
Forcing your body to use stale air, you are making it harder for your body to stave off disease.
Fresh air is also good for digestion – why the “after dinner” walk is often promoted. Other benefits of breathing fresh air are improvements in blood pressure and heart rate – dirty environments force the body to work harder and to get the amount of oxygen it needs.
(SOURCE: Good Relaxation.com)
Mental Health Benefits
Time in Nature
Connecting with nature, listening to birds chirping, water trickling, etc. is an instant, and negative emotions are reduced. People have noted distinct improvement in their mood from being in the outdoors as well as releasing the amount of serotonin in the body, resulting in feelings of happiness and joy.
According to Dr. Susanne Preston, a Clinical Mental Health Counsellor at South University, being outside and spending time in nature is good for a person’s mental health, as it allows them to de-stress. Incidents of seasonal affective disorder diminish when individuals are exposed to natural sunlight, elevating their moods. Therefore, a reduction in mental illness and anxiety is expected.
Children playing in the garden, away from the video games and social media, are a rare occurrence nowadays. However, it is more common in homes where the parents spend time in an outdoor space that they have created to spend quality time in. Children not spending time outside in the fresh air can be harmful to a child’s wellbeing; according to Robyn Bjorrnson, Executive Assistant at the Children and Nature Network. Bjorrnson states “children who regularly experience nature-play are healthier, happier and test better in school.” Other benefits include relieving symptoms of ADHD, increase in self-esteem and creativity and improve resilience.
Studies have also shown that living near forests is actually associated with a lower risk of death from all causes, especially respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease. (Source: Paleo Leap)
In Japan, it even has a unique name: “shinrin-yoku,” which translates to “forest bathing” which is similar to sunbathing, in the forest. Sounds farfetched, but the results are astounding:
- In one study, participants walked in a forest or in a city for 15 minutes. The forest-walking group had lower blood pressure and pulse rate, and lower stress as measured by heart rate variability and cortisol levels.
- Other studies on shinrin-yoku found that it actually changes cerebral activity in the brain, which helps fight stress.
- Even the study which involved just sitting in the forest showed reduced markers of stress. The review also cited another study where forest exposure improved immune function, even after the participants went back to their normal lives in the city.
The more time we spend with our family, the stronger will be the bond. However, our modern lifestyle leaves us with little or no time for interactions with the family, let alone quality time. One way to ensure it happens is to create an outdoor area that delivers enticement for all members of the family.
A dedicated outdoor area for gathering the family together can emulate the quality time spent when away on vacation or camp. Bringing the family together is easier in a common space away, and you can roast marshmallows over a fire pit, sing songs or tell spooky stories together.
According to the Child Development Institute, there are many reasons why spending time together is so important.
- Ultimately children model their own decision-making skills and values on their patents, so spending quality time together is very important.
- Children feel important and loved.
- The family bond is strengthened the more time spent together.
- Communication becomes more open, and the child has a chance to voice their inner thoughts and feelings.
So, how do you entice pre-teens and teens away from video games and social media? Well, create a space where the family can create memories - a destination away from the household chores and technology, just like when you go on vacation or to camp. Here are a few tips to ensure the younger members of your household are enticed to come outside:
- Include functional outdoor dining set to ensure meals are eaten outside together where possible.
- On weekends, utilize the fire pit and take turns telling spooky stories and making s’mores.
- Invite the children’s friends over to roast marshmallows too.
- Add some outdoor speakers to create a mood (preferably teen-friendly music!)
- They might like to relax or read a book in a hammock
- If the budget allows, a hot tub is sure-fire way to attract the kids out of the house!
If you have an outdoor area which is not optimized for socializing, family binding time, relaxation and perhaps even the odd vacation, it’s clear you’re missing out.
Hopefully, we have inspired you to get outside and let your imagination run wild with creative ideas to improve not only the value of your home but also really gain some serious benefits to your immediate health.
Even if you are a movie-loving family whose idea of a great Friday night is watching a few flicks, you can certainly incorporate this into your outdoor area. In doing so, your family will benefit from bonding together (isn’t it more of an adventure outside?!). You can even tie it in with some s’mores making around the fire pit and cooking the evening meal. All the time is breathing in the FRESH AIR and balancing the body’s chemical balance and emotional triggers.