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10 Compelling Reasons to Bring the Outdoors In

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10 Compelling Reasons to Bring the Outdoors In

June 11, 2019

Have you ever stepped out of the car (after a traffic-dodging drive from the city) into fresh mountain air, drawn in a deep breath, and felt instantly—miraculously—well, better? The spaces we live in affect us deeply: They impact our behavior and, as a result, our health. Our environment can trigger a stress response (an imprisoning brick wall, stacks of unpaid bills, mounds of dirty laundry) or cue the relaxation response.

Adding a little nature to our lives is one way to put a few more deep exhales back into the daily grind; a connection to nature, after all, is an essential ingredient of human health and well being. Here are 10 reasons for bringing the outdoors in.

1. Plants improve air quality.

In the 1980s, NASA discovered that plans can improve indoor air quality. And let’s not forget that fresh air helps you sleep: Remember, nature is the original Ambien.

Ferns, succulents, and other moisture-loving plants hang from the existing ceiling joists in a bathroom designed by Simon Astridge. Explains Astridge, “The idea was to bring the outdoors in and make the space feel relaxing.” From Sky’s the Limit: 5 Indoor Plants for Rooms with High Ceilings.
Above: Ferns, succulents, and other moisture-loving plants hang from the existing ceiling joists in a bathroom designed by Simon Astridge. Explains Astridge, “The idea was to bring the outdoors in and make the space feel relaxing.” From Sky’s the Limit: 5 Indoor Plants for Rooms with High Ceilings.

2. Fresh-cut flowers in the home boost feelings of happiness.

As I browse the supermarket aisles, I often wonder: Is it worth the extra tally on the grocery bill to buy flowers? They are cheery, no doubt, but they never last long. After reviewing the research, I’m now convinced: It’s worth the debit in your happiness account. Studies have shown that flowers reduce depression and increase positive emotion. Read more in Need to Be Productive? Buy Some Flowers on Greatist and Flower Power in Rutgers Magazine.

Artist Cécile Daladier&#8
Above: Artist Cécile Daladier’s fresh cut flowers in a handmade Raku vase from In the Garden and Atelier with Cécile Daladier in Paris.

3. Growing what we eat can help connect to the earth.

For urban dwellers, compact edible gardens or a few potted herbs can make a dramatic difference in our culinary experience. After growing a bit of lettuce on our back porch, my children now prefer it to the store-bought variety.

German-born Juliane Strittmatter collects flowers from her farm in Hässleholm every day from May through October and documents them, along with fruit and vegetables collected (shown here are fresh quince, on Instagram.
Above: German-born Juliane Strittmatter collects flowers from her farm in Hässleholm every day from May through October and documents them, along with fruit and vegetables collected (shown here are fresh quince, on Instagram.

4. Getting back to nature can inspire creativity.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe a condition that he says results for our lack of communion with living things. He recommends living in and around natural living things, which boosts our creativity, happiness, and health.

5. Consider adding a small tree, a rock garden, or a terrarium to your indoor space.

A leafy tree, like a Fiddle Fig Leaf, or a small rock garden of collected stones or a terrarium can help set the mind at ease after a hectic day.

A potted shrub Ming aralia in the house of John Baker and Juli Daoust.
Above: A potted shrub Ming aralia in the house of John Baker and Juli Daoust.

6. A dose of nature can enhance energy and performance.

Atlanta-based interior designer Ginny Magher (full disclosure: Ginny is married to my father, Craig) recommends growing a variety of kitchen herbs in small pots for a quick tisane. She snips fresh basil or thyme into her tea and finds the scent of fresh herbs provides an early morning mood-boost.

7. Spending time looking at plants can help you heal faster.

Nature is natural medicine. In 1984 environmental psychologist Rodger Ulrich conducted a study on gallbladder surgery patients, which proved that those whose rooms overlooked trees healed faster than those who looked at a brick wall. Read more in How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal from Scientific American.

Cut broad leaves in vase in John Derian&#8
Above: Cut broad leaves in vase in John Derian’s house. See more from Trend Alert: Designer John Derian’s Faded Flowers.

8. Spending time around greenery can improve concentration and increase attention span.

This benefit holds true for children as well. Studies have shown that children who spend time around plants have better concentration (A “Dose of Nature” for Attention Problems, the New York Times). At Waldorf Schools, families are encouraged to build a nature table to reflect the changes in the seasons; children are encouraged to collect “treasures” from the outdoors and display them inside to maintain a connection to the present season.

9. Being in a natural environment can improve memory performance by as much as 20 percent.

Dr. Esther Sternber, author of Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being, says that our health extends beyond our physical bodies to include our emotions and the spaces around us. The practice of Feng Shui, the system of harmonizing the human experience with the surrounding environment, echos this same principle.

Two shelves of houseplants—mostly succulents—in a kitchen designed by deVol.
Above: Two shelves of houseplants—mostly succulents—in a kitchen designed by deVol.

10. Plants require care, which helps to flex our nurturing muscles, making us more compassionate.

Caring for life can channel anxiety into an outlet of caretaking and nurturing. In our texting, updating, connected-but-disconnected modern life, we can forget our place in the larger universe; having a life to care for can put it all back into perspective—and again, helps us feel more alive, at ease, and whole.

A look into Ben Pentreath&#8
Above: A look into Ben Pentreath’s garden, photographed by Matthew Williams from Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces.

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