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Snapdragon blog

Ideas for greening when you need to stay indoors

bluebells in wood

All this week, as people are told to stay inside and self isolate, I have been thinking about what we can do to bring green and nature - so important for health and wellbeing - into our indoor lives. I am lucky that I can walk for miles and miles from my front door and meet nobody, but that is a rare thing in today's society.

At points in my life though I have not had that, not because of location but because of the fatigue of chronic illness, so I wondered if a list of the things that helped me retain a connection with nature when I was stuck in bed, might be generally useful now.

1. A view.

Try to get a view of nature outdoors, it doesn't have to be a beautiful outdoors, just a window onto the world. It is most beneficial if it has green there somewhere - a tree or a lawn or shrubs is fine.

Between 1972 and 1981 a researcher called Roger Ulrich tracked the recovery rates of gall bladder patients in a suburban Pensylvanian hospital. He was trying to work out why some patients recovered faster than others when there seemed to be no connection to age or fitness. Ulrich had himself spent a lot of time convalescing at home in his teens and he vividly remembered the pine tree outside his window. He wondered whether the view from a hospital bed could influencerecovery rates.

The beds were all in double occupancy rooms - identical in layout - each with a large window where the view was visible from the bed. Half the rooms looked out onto trees, the others onto a brick wall. When the data was analysed it showed that the patients with the tree view recovered faster, needed lower doses of painkillers and had fewer post operative complications that those looking out onto the wall.

This research has been repeated in different countries, in different specialities, and all reach the same conclusion - that, when you can't get outside, a view matters and that the most beneficial view is of green. Move around your home to find the best view and drink your cup of tea there, even if you are perched on top of the loo.

2. Bring green indoors

Not everyone has a view with green in it, you might only have the brick walls, so you may need to bring it in. Plants and flowers indoors create the same kinds of results - they reduce stress hormones, they purify the air, they connect us with nature when we cannot get outside.

I think that the best gift for a person in self isolation at the moment may well be a plant or a bunch of daffodils.

Put them in front of a window for the best results

3. Scent

Scent is a powerful part of being outside, the brain responds to scent really quickly and that is why essential oils are so therapeutic. To connect to the healing power of nature you can diffuse tree oil (cypress works well and is relatively inexpensive) they give that resinous scent you get when walking through an evergreen forest in the heat.

An experiment was done by the Japanese Professor Dr Qing Li where he diffused tree oils in the Tokyo hotel rooms of 12 Japanese men for 3 nights while they slept. At the end of the experiment they were re-examined and all showed decreased levels of stress hormones, strengthened immune systems, lower blood pressure and decreased scores in anxiety tests. Their lives were the same as usual in every other way - they still worked, still saw family and friends, just spent from 11pm until 8am in the hotel room with the diffused oil.

4. Screens

I am not usually a great fan of screens - we sit in front of them so much already - but there is really interesting research that shows looking at large scale images of green landscape (not the seaside) decreases stress hormones, reduces anxiety and gives a lot of the benefits of actually being outside. It is as if our brain recognises the vibration of the green and classes it as 'nature'.

The image needs to be the majority of your field of vision - so a very big photo book or a laptop/desk top screen rather than a phone - and you need to take at least a few seconds with each image rather than flicking or scrolling.

So if you are missing being outside, put together a few beautiful landscape images, find some birdsong recordings and try and relax into the images. Static images seem to work better than moving ones for reasons that are unclear.

5. Three minutes outside

First thing in the morning and last thing at night ground yourself in nature. If you can actually get outside and stand by your door that is ideal, if you can't (or it is raining too hard) stand in the doorway or by an open window.

Close your eyes and take 10 slow deep breaths in and out.

That is it - a minute and a half to bookend your day in nature.

 

It was the need for so many people to self isolate at the moment that inspired me to create this list, but really it is a list of things that we can all do, wherever we live, however busy we are, to connect ourselves to the natural world. I would love to hear your experiences and suggestions in the comments.

Comments: 1 (Add)

Joyce on March 20 2020 at 14:53

Thanks so much Jane. Your words are always wise and comforting. x

Snapdragon social

Today is the last day to become a member of Snapdragon Studio for a while. I close the doors to new members at midnight. ⠀
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I actually took the decision a couple of months ago, while doing @simpleandseason ‘s excellent course The Playbook, when I realised that I really wanted to work with a settled group of members instead of constantly looking for new ones.⠀
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Now the decision seems even more right, the opportunity to hunker down and support each other through this. ⠀
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The plans I had set out at the beginning of February aren’t the right ones now, so I need to make new ones, and this gives me a chance to make new plans together. ⠀
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Tomorrow I’m going to be sending out a survey to members to see what their new circumstances are and what would be most useful. ⠀
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If you had thought about joining then you can still find all the details on www.snapdragonlife.com today or DM me.
Twelve thousand years ago, when Loch Lomond was frozen solid, glaciers grinding out the soil, the ridge where I live would have been the outermost bank, the bit reaches just as the ice retreated. The terminal moraine. ⠀
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This has become my daily walk - the fields falling away on either side of the road, hills circling in the distance, blues and greys and increasingly bright olive greens. ⠀
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And now lambs. An animated landscape.
Last week Euan forwarded me a spoof article about “Middle Class Quarantine”, people making sourdough bread, transforming the flower border into a vegetable patch, collecting eggs from their flock of bantams. ⠀
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This is Caspar, the head of my flock of bantams. ⠀
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I’ve never felt so privileged in my life as I do now (and I’m a pretty privileged person at the best of times). ⠀
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Part of it is the gift of having space, of being able to walk out into beautiful countryside from my front door, of having a studio in my garden so that I can keep working. A proper spare room to move into, an extra bathroom and back door. ⠀
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But it’s more than just the circumstances of the life we have built here - it goes right to the core of me, the luck of having a temperament happy to work alone, of having grown up daughters who came home and get on with each other.  It is being an introvert, getting my energy from being by myself, my comfort from cooking and gardening and making things, the way I always, always have food in the cupboard. ⠀
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I look out from my isolation here and I see the gaps opening wider and wider in society with this and it frightens and terrifies me. When we get out again we will have so much work to do. ⠀
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There is something so 'Old Mastery' about fritillaries I think. ⁠⠀
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I planted (or more accurately @eileentisdall planted) hundreds of fritillaries under the plum trees and they are beginning to bloom.⁠⠀
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We also potted some up for indoors and kept them in the cold greenhouse - and I planted those ones into these tea cups as soon as they had full buds.⁠⠀
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Once the flowers are over they will join the others in the orchard.⁠⠀
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If you want to try this - with any small bulbs - you can dig them up from the garden and bring indoors temporarily, water lightly (remember there is no drainage), top with moss and keep coolish.⁠⠀
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Watching bulbs unfurl and bloom is a wonderful way to take advantage of having to stay indoors more.⁠⠀
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Like many people I have been racking my brain as to what I can do to help.⁠⠀
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I am stuck here so I can't deliver or run errands, I'm not a natural maker of cheerful phone calls and it will be a good few weeks before anything I am growing is actually ready.⁠⠀
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I do however have a Royal Mail pick up in place - on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the garage - and it seemed that I should make use of that while I have access to it.⁠⠀
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All things on our website can be sent direct with free gift wrap and a card - and, more importantly I think, I am also hand drawing cards and sending them with your message inside (or letter - I can print it out and put it inside the card). ⁠⠀
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For members I am only charging postage, for everyone else there is a minimal charge to cover supplies.  The details are on the front page of my website www.snapdragonlife.com.⁠⠀
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I know that my elderly relatives are oblivious to all things digital, all the ways that I keep in touch with friends, have passed them by and I do worry about how isolated they must be. ⁠⠀
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A letter through the mail might make someone's day so much brighter.
One of my blessings at the moment  is that my daily walk is along the road that passes through our neighbours’ farm. ⠀
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A sheepy maternity unit, where the heavy, still sheep of one day will be joined by bright, bouncing, tumbling lambs the next. ⠀
Lupin - in a halo of light here - has recently become top cat in the house. ⠀
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Minou, my morning cat, has given up the job reluctantly in a flurry of spats over the past 6 months. ⠀
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What has been fascinating is how Lupin has not changed his routine, he still sleeps 90% of the day moving only to keep in the sun and to eat, yet he has mysteriously transformed into a  massive and dense ball of fluff coated muscle. ⠀
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It just shows how much is in the mind and the role taken on. ⠀
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This weekend I was very down, worried about what comes next for NHS staff, frustrated at the thoughtless actions of others.⁠⠀
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Today though, I have decided to draw a line.  I cannot change anyone's behaviour.  I doubt that the people who watch my stories are the same people who are treating this pandemic as a Bank Holiday.⁠⠀
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Instead I'm going to try and produce as many useful things as I can.  On Friday I published a blog about all the things that you can do to bring the feeling of the outside into your home.⁠⠀
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It is actually a piece I originally wrote about chronic illness and the fatigue that can trap you indoors, but it has a wider use now I think.  It is about the science behind the way that our brains perceive nature and how you can get a lot of the wellbeing effects of being outside without leaving your home.⁠⠀
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The blog is on the home page of my website - www.snapdragonlife.com - and you can get to it via my profile too.⁠⠀
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If you have any other tips please comment and I can add them in.
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About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

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