After a long hard winter, it’s finally the outdoor season! More daylight means enjoying evening gatherings with friends and family. Conversation is easy and relaxed. If you have your own porch, patio, balcony, courtyard or patio, these are the ideal months to enjoy being at home outside.
Perhaps your outdoor living area could use some improvement, and the money you didn’t spend on vacation last year will go into an improvement project this year. This can be of great benefit to your well-being and your wallet; Outdoor improvements have the potential to add value to your property and, in the meantime, definitely add to the enjoyment of it.
“Spending time in nature has many benefits,” said California psychologist Forrest Talley, Ph.D. in Wellness by Design (Tiller Press, 2020). “These include lowering cortisol levels (a hormone that increases under stress and causes faster aging); Strengthening the immune system; Lowering blood pressure; Improve memory function; decreased anxiety and builds a feeling of well-being. “
Perhaps your environment is completely urban with no trees or lawn in sight. Consider adding your own greenery using native plants in decorative pots, raised planters, leafy walls, or trellis installations. Contact a gardening professional to see what will grow best in your space or take a gardening class yourself.
Other ways to add nature to your home are by hanging wind chimes and birdhouses and adding decorative elements reminiscent of flora or fauna. Adding these nature-inspired depictions is part of biophilia. Medical studies have shown that even biophilic representations (and not the real ones if unavailable or impractical) can help reduce stress, manage pain, and recover in hospital patients.
These representations can be decorative outdoor pillows with your favorite animals printed on them, an outdoor rug with an animal print, a flower candle, a bowl with seashells or any other outdoor decoration inspired by nature that brings back happy memories, relaxing moments or dream vacations.
After being locked inside all winter, in bad weather and a brutal pandemic, it’s nice to take your workout outside. ACE, one of the leading personal trainer certification programs, shares these benefits of exercising outdoors: 1. Better mood and less depression; 2. Improved self-esteem; 3. Low cost; 4. Easy access and 5. Connection with Mother Nature.
The easy access is especially helpful if you do short workouts during your lunch break or while your little one is taking a nap. Being able to step outside to exercise in the fresh air can be a mood and energy boost.
Some wellness design considerations to keep in mind when exercising outdoors:
- Which fitness equipment is suitable for regular outdoor use and where do you conveniently store it between training sessions?
- Would you like to add privacy with an outside screen or curtain panels?
- Would you like to upholster your floor covering with a mat to protect your feet and joints?
- If your exercise room and times are going to be hot and sunny, do you want to add a fan and possibly sun protection?
- Will your speaker disturb your neighbors or household members while they work, sleep, or study?
- Are insect bites likely to be a problem outdoors? Consider a zapper that fits your space and budget.
Cooking and eating outdoors
One of the great joys of this time of year is the food that is cooked and enjoyed outdoors (adjective, cooked or eaten outdoors). Their range of cooking appliances includes the dependable built-in or portable grill, but they can go much further. There are also side burners for searing and cooking side dishes and warming drawers for late risers.
Grilled foods – especially fruits, vegetables, fish, and lean meats – can be flavorful, light, and nutritious. Just be careful not to burn your starchy ingredients or meat to avoid a potential health hazard, advises the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Outdoor pizza ovens – either built-in or freestanding – have become very popular and can help you have a healthy pizza party. There are also outdoor refrigerators, ice makers, and wine captains for healthy gatherings.
If your grill is in a semi-enclosed outdoor area, you’ll want (or need) a ventilation hood. While not required by local regulations, a properly sized and positioned unit can help keep the winds from being blown on your guests by cooking smoke. Screens are also helpful for keeping insects out of your cooking and dining areas. Some are designed to retreat when not in use or virtually invisible when they are.
It pays to consult with a local outdoor kitchen professional or landscape architect to find the right layout, equipment, surface treatment and furniture for your space, style, comfort and level of investment.
The nights can still be cool in some regions and an outdoor fire pit, fire table or fireplace can extend the use of your outdoor space into the cooler seasons. If that’s not an option, choose a large outdoor blanket to snuggle under.
Another comfort feature to consider is the outdoor lighting. There are options that require electricity, like most lanterns and ceiling lights, and some that don’t. These may be easier to set up and can include solar powered path lights (for safety) and fairy lights for entertainment. There is always candlelight for romantic evenings or relaxed solo sessions. Just make sure that the holder offers stability and wind protection so that there is no fire.
Allergy sufferers often have a harder time enjoying nature at this time of the year. The Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions for those with seasonal allergies:
- Stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rainfall, which will help remove pollen from the air.
- Avoid early morning outdoor activities when pollen counts are highest.
- Wear a pollen mask when working outdoors.
- Check your local TV or radio station, your local newspaper or the internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels.
- If high pollen counts are forecast, start taking allergy medication before your symptoms appear.
Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright had his own thoughts on outdoor living. This quote from the master is at the end of Wellness by Design: “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never let you down. “
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach, Wellness Design Consultant, and author of three books on design and remodeling. The latest edition of Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness and Happiness (Tiller Press) was published in September 2020. You can enjoy Jamie’s WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS at the Clubhouse on the first and third weeks of the month at 1pm Pacific / 4pm East