Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

Journal

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

The sun room table, an old enamel basin, hazel twigs and pure glamour from green tinged white trumpets.⁠⠀
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I looked up yesterday lunchtime and the garden was full of sunshine. ⁠⠀
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There are a few places in the (very messy) house where keeping a bit of negative space, clear surfaces, a sense of breathing out pays off.  This white table is one of them.⁠⠀
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I took this on Sunday, disappointingly it is currently cluttered up with things (a nest, two candles, a box of matches, some receipts) to take down to the Studio.
Over the past year I have become increasingly uncomfortable about how we talk about the seasons to the point that I feel I need to say something.⁠⠀
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I'm particularly uncomfortable about how we talk about using the seasons as a life guide.  I can understand why this has happened - it is great, easily understood marketing, it is a ready built structure, I'm sure it helps the people who are desperately in need of rules and timetables at the moment.⁠⠀
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But it is rooted in a very particular idea of what seasons look like - particularly the 4 defined seasons of the UK, Europe and North America;⁠⠀
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Which would be fine if people were talking about their local area, the view from their window.  But that doesn't seem to be the case - this seasonal structure is built up into a programme to follow, the language is very much that 'this is the correct way to think about life'.⁠⠀
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But, if you are saying that the dormant season is the time to rest and recuperate, what does that say about countries where the seasons don't look like that.  Is there to be no rest? Is everyone to adopt the seasons in the UK as the 'correct' version? ⁠⠀
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Language matters, because language is where our assumptions lie.⁠⠀
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⁠The photo is of a rose hip - rose hips are the only berries left in the hedges now.  I used to think that it was because they tasted spiky that the birds left them till there were no other options but recently I found that they have the least calories.  The ivy, rowan and hawthorns produce the Kendal mint cake of berries - perfect for seeing the birds through the cold - so get eaten first.⁠⠀
There is a lot of talk at the moment about what 'seasonal flowers' means - the wonderful @wolveslaneflowercompany have been addressing the issue and they have a great story thread exploring the issue saved in their highlights.⁠⠀
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It was a thing that used to bother me a lot when I grew flowers because I only ever sold flowers that grew here, that was the whole point of the business - and in Scotland seasons are very late. I spent a lot of time explaining to brides that not everything is available at every time of the year. ⁠⠀
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I didn't ever have cut flowers until April.  I missed both Valentines and Mother's Day. ⁠⠀
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This is what I have as flowers in my home through January and February - glamorous, long lasting, amaryllis bulbs are on every surface. ⁠⠀
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Elsewhere cut hazel twigs in jam jars are taking over the windowsills. next week I may add in some snowdrops.
Yesterday I sent out a newsletter about extractivism - about the human tendency to push and exploit and keep extracting until we end up with a husk.⁠⠀
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It was sparked by conversations I had after the Oxford Real Farming Conference and a realisation that there is a thread that ties colonialism, industrial farming, privatisation of services and the way we often treat ourselves.⁠⠀
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I've been having such interesting conversations with the people who replied.⁠⠀
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I resend my newsletters to new subscribers on Sundays so if you want to sign up you can click through my profile to the website front page.⁠⠀
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We have been frozen here for a while - the top inch of ground thawed yesterday, but under that was rock hard.  Most of the garden is a low flood of slush floating on ice.⁠⠀
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The hardy annual plants I sowed in late September and transplanted in October are currently under snow but looking pretty terminal.  The temperature in the polytunnel went down to -6 last week and the salad crops turned to mush.⁠⠀
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Were I remotely self sufficient it would be proving a hard winter.⁠⠀
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But I'm not, so I just add more plants to my sowing plan - sowing seeds is my favourite thing - and admire the beauty of the hoar frost, and feel happy that I have food in the store cupboard and logs in the woodpile and a big pile of books by me.
'See a pin and pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck'.⁠⠀
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I have been embroidering a tiny run of linen needle/pin cases to go into the shop tomorrow - and I have embroidered this rhyme inside them - a reminder of the time when pins were made by hand and were to be treasured and looked after. ⁠⠀
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It gives a new appreciation to the term 'pin money' too - the modern kinds of pins, shiny in their plastic box that have made us assume that the term meant a small amount, left over change for fripperies. ⁠⠀
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In reality it was used as an alternative name for a household allowance - the amount of which was often laid out in the marriage contract - and was the money that a woman had complete legal control over. If it was unpaid a woman could sue her husband or his estate for back pay.
Allium Chistophii are rolling around under the espalier apple trees in the vegetable patch. ⠀
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I always hope for a little light self seeding as they go. ⠀
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Now they are like glittery tumbleweeds in the frost. ⠀
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In truth we bought the airstream to avoid a divorce.⁠⠀
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We bought it on Ebay late at night after sharing a bottle of wine.⁠⠀
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At the time I was running a business from the house - from a house that was about half the size it is now, a jumble of tiny rooms, painted plywood floors, two small children and a high level of sticky chaos.⁠⠀
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I am not a tidy enough person to run a business in a home - even had it been a well run home with storage space - and those years were not remotely well run.  My invoices always had cereal stuck to them, my sewing machine was parked at the end of the dining table, 90% of my working time seemed to be spent looking for something that I was sure had been left 'just there'.⁠⠀
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So we looked for something that we could afford so I could move the business out of the house - we priced up a chalet style home office from B & Q - and then, on Ebay, we saw the airstream, badly damaged, vandalised, forlorn.  It came in cheaper than the shoffice . . . .⁠⠀
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For a few years - before I built the Studio - this was my workspace and since then it has become a storage area and been sadly neglected while I tried to save the money to repair the damaged back window and the sagging floor.⁠⠀
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This weekend we began clearing out all the fabric that was stored in it so that the renovation can begin.  I am very excited.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I 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.

 

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