The average American spends more than 90% of her time indoors. While tasks at work may never stop piling on, and chores at home frequently beckon, it’s important to remember the benefits of nature and the reasons to go out—to just breathe and be.
When inside, we’re constantly breathing recycled air. Studies have found that indoor air quality is in fact more polluted than outdoor air even in major industrial urban environments.
But the good news is that spending as little as five minutes a day outside breathing fresh air can have positive effects on both physical and mental health.
Trees remove pollution from the air. This environmental cleansing occurs as plants absorb gaseous pollutants and convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. So it’s no surprise that breathing fresh air can have a similar cleansing effect for us. Fresh air helps dilate your lungs, and as you breathe and exhale you release toxins from within your body. Breathing in fresh air can even help support digestion and keeping excess weight off.
Remember that sense of vigor you experienced as a child playing outside? Well, a series of studies have uncovered one of the many positive effects of spending time in nature—an increased sense of vitality.
As you walk through the park or even just spend a bit of time walking through your neighborhood, you may actually be reversing your brain fatigue. The next time you’re having trouble concentrating at work, consider taking a short stroll instead of going for that cup of afternoon coffee.
Spending time amidst trees and plants in particular aids with the emotional recovery from stress and promotes a feeling of well-being. In fact, even just breathing in the scents associated with being in nature can be mood boosting.
It’s actually been scientifically proven that nature brings about a sense of awe—that palpable feeling we get when looking out across a vast vista or standing amid a fecund forest. Time outside is a reminder that we’re part of something larger than ourselves.
Simply put, polluted environments signal our bodies to work harder, even when we’re in good health. Clean air rich with oxygen facilitates the functioning of white blood cells, which fend off infection, reduce inflammation, and promote good health.
When you’re hitting a mental roadblock or your legs are getting restless, instead of hanging out by the water cooler, consider getting outside to breathe in some fresh air and give yourself a sense of renewal. Find a tree to sit under and meditate or take a quick walk around the block.
Often times it’s our instinct to hop in the car to get us from A to B. Consider giving yourself a little extra time to walk to where you’re going. Better yet, find a route through green spaces or a park.
For the time you do spend inside, take steps to reduce the toxins in the air—your mind, body and skin will thank you for it. Crack a window to improve ventilation when possible. Air purifiers can also be effective at removing pollutants from indoor air.
And you might consider bringing nature inside as well. Houseplants can reduce levels of some chemicals in the air while also promoting some of the goodness we get from spending time around trees outside.
Take some time to locate green spaces that are accessible from your home and office, and find ways to carve out time to take advantage of them. Think about how to make the activities you love outdoor activities--such as exercising outdoors or eating a meal in the park instead of inside.And the best news of all is that fresh air is right outside waiting for you—if you just make the time to breathe it in.
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Stay Ever Well,
Lynne + Renee