Seasonally inspired things to Make, Learn & Do.

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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

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Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
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Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
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Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
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My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
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Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
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As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
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This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
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This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
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I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
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Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
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This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
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The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
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So if you are looking for tutorials, nature notes, gardening, recipes or musings on life you can find them without scrolling through hundreds of pages. 
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The poppies are from Friday’s blog about how they make wonderful cut flowers.
Another week. Another new morning 
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That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
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What are you looking forward to doing today?
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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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