25 Benefits of Time Outside - #1
What is it that makes time outside so good for us?
A friend asked me this a couple of weeks ago while our one-year-olds were playing in the garden.
It's such a great question. It's obvious when you look at two toddlers playing in the sunshine that they're on to a good thing.But what is actually happening to their brains and their bodies that makes this kind of play beneficial?
To answer this question, I've challenged myself to write 25 emails about 25 benefits of spending time outside.
To kick us off, let's talk about one groundbreaking study.
In 1984 environmental psychologist Robert Ulrich studied patients recovering from surgery in a Pennsylvanian hospital.Some of the patients involved in the study had a view from their hospital bed through a window to trees outside, while others had a view of a brick wall.Ulrich compared the two and found that the patients who could see the green trees recovered faster from their surgery. Not only that they also had fewer post-surgical complications, used fewer pain killers and were kinder to the nurses caring for them, than patients who looked out onto a wall.
This study demonstrated that even looking at a view of the natural world was good for us. It's an idea that has been replicated in many other studies since.
One of the implications I love from this study is that when we have a busy season and our kids don’t get outside as much as we’d like, we don't have to despair. We can remember that even something as simple as looking out at the view from a window, slowing down and taking in the beauty of the natural world can make us happier and healthier.
Two quotes from others
Contact with green spaces... is thought to have a defining role in human brain development. An accumulating body of evidence has also associated such contact with improved mental and physical health in children
- Payam Dadvand, Green Spaces and Child Health and Development.
As a teenager, I had serious bouts of nephritis, or kidney disease. Fortunately, I came out of it just fine, but there were long periods spent at home in bed feeling quite bad, looking out the window at a big pine tree. I think seeing that tree helped my emotional state.
- Roger Ulrich, in an interview explaining what motivated him to studying the benefits of the view through a window.
Three tips, answers to your questions or things you might love
1. This two-minute video from CNN, What it really means to see green.
2. If you live in a house (or apartment) without any views of trees, don't despair. Studies show houseplants can also improve our wellbeing.
3. This week a lovely reader got in touch to ask for ideas for outdoor play while her son (19 months) has his leg in a cast. Here's my answer:
We love painting and drawing outside, reading stories and listening to audiobooks. You could also try planting seedlings in egg cartons or bulbs in a pot. Also, we love play-dough with natural objects and building with natural clay.
Do you have a favourite window to stare out?
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Hannah Alexander x
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Hi, I'm Hannah
I write about parenting, simplicity, nature and play.