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Intuitively, we know that being in nature is good for us. Who hasn’t felt better physically and mentally after a walk on the beach or pottering around in the garden? Research confirms that spending time outdoors boosts your health and happiness in many different ways.
But most of us spend the majority of our waking hours indoors. Whether you work in an office, shop or school building, or you’re housebound due to chronic illness, chances are you’re not connected with nature on a daily basis.
Of course, there are ways to get your daily nature fix, even if you live in a concrete jungle. And ideally, you could reap the benefits of nature through outdoor recreation on weekends, from playing in the park to mindfully forest bathing. But because we spend so much time inside, why not bring the benefits of nature to us?
Take a look at these 6 natural ways to bring the outdoors indoors.
1. Let the light in
The invention of electric light is definitely one of the most convenient developments in human history. But with the ability to light up a room in the middle of the night, we’ve also lost our connection with the circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is the roughly 24-hour cycle of physiological changes in your body, from your sleep-wake cycle to hormone production.
Natural daylight has a profound impact on your circadian rhythm. When light enters your eyes in the morning, it sends a signal to your master internal clock that it’s time to start the day’s circadian cycle.
Here’s how you can let the light in for a healthy biorhythm:
- Expose yourself to natural light early in the morning. Open your curtains and depending on the season, drink your cup of coffee out on the patio. And if you can, walking a ‘Morning Mile’ is a powerful way to boost your energy, mood and deep sleep.
- Grab the window seat on the bus or train. If you have flexible workspaces, sit at a desk near a window. (Bonus points for overlooking natural surroundings!)
- No time or energy to go outside? Consider putting your chair near the open window for a few minutes.
- In the evening, dim the lights to give your brain a cue it’s time to prepare for sleep. Also don’t use blue-lit screens like your phone and iPad one hour before bed. The blue light coming from electronic devices disturbs the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep.
2. Take a breath of fresh air
Did you know that the air within buildings can be even more polluted than outdoor air? Because we spend approximately 90% of our time indoors, the quality of the air at home or at your workplace can have a huge impact on your health.
That’s why it’s important to ventilate your home every day, preferably by opening windows on opposite sides of the house. Stagnant air allows toxic particles from synthetic materials and cleaning products to build up. If it can be done safely, keep air grates open day and night to keep the indoor air circulating.
Indoor plants can also improve the indoor air quality. Which brings me to the next point…
3. Adorn your house with plants
One of the most obvious ways to bring the outdoors indoors is by adorning your home or desk with plants. Studies suggests that just looking at greenery helps release stress, eases mental fatigue and boosts your attention span.
Air-purifying plants, like aloe vera, peace lily or spider plant, don’t just look pretty, they also help to get rid of stale air and act as a natural humidifier. If you don’t have green fingers – like me – you could also consider a terrarium with succulents for that garden feeling without the maintenance.
4. Green up your home
Indoor plants aren’t the only way to make your home greener. Flowers brighten up any room, while herbs are an aromatic addition to your kitchen. Not to mention that each herb contains their own health-boosting compounds.
Instead of synthetic materials, you could also use more natural elements in your decor, like (repurposed) wood, bamboo and organic fabrics. Not only will this give your home a cozy feeling, using natural materials also benefits the environment and supports healthier indoor air. You could even decorate with the seasons, from collected sea shells to sturdy branches and pine cones.
5. Get the window view
It might sound too good to be true, but did you know that simply looking at natural scenes can significantly reduce stress, anxiety and pain? A now classic study shows that hospital patients with windows looking out over leafy trees recovered faster and required less painkillers than patients with urban views.
With that in mind, how can you expose yourself to more natural scenery indoors?
- Do you have one or more windows overlooking trees, fields or a body of water? You might want to check if your current layout of the room offers you the best views. If you spend a lot of time on the couch, why not move your furniture around so you can watch both the tv and the sunset?
- Put up large photographs of your favourite landscapes. Research confirms that even staring at ‘artificial nature’ can improve your health and happiness. In that spirit, you can also change your screen saver to a picture of the beach, woods or mountains.
6. A scent of nature
Does the smell of lavender or fresh cut grass bring back memories of lazy summer days?
A more surprising way to bring the outdoors indoors is to use essential oils in diffusers. Essential oils are aromatic compounds extracted from plants. In aromatherapy, the inhalation of these scents is thought to provide all kinds of health benefits. For example, eucalyptus oil has anti-inflammatory effects that reduce muscle and joint pain, while lavender oil is frequently used to relieve stress and promote sound sleep.
How do you bring the outdoors indoors to get all the health benefits of nature at home?