Out for some Fresh Air
Posted on 2nd May 2022 at 20:45
This month we are exploring “going outside for a bit of fresh air.”
No matter where you are in the world reading this, I am going to assume that you have the option to be in your home or go outside it. Where do you go ? How much of your time do you spend out there and how does that make you feel? Regrettably in many homes I know that walking outside does not necessarily guarantee fresh clean air and daisies. This isn’t a piece about climate change but the facts remain that in built up areas pollution is higher and understandably our bodies don’t enjoy large amounts of this.
I read an article lately that stated that there is now such a wide range of research into the positive effects of spending time in clean open spaces , that this is really pushing policy changes so that authorities must now consider this impact and make adjustments and improvement. I am assuming this means that authorities must ensure that green spaces within our cities are protected and grown. I hope this to be true and I hope this to be seen.
As a child I was spoilt with clean fresh air of the beautiful Scottish countryside each day. At night when the lights went out the room was dark, there was no artificial light to be seen for miles. I emersed myself in the water of the stream that ran down by our house and the earth in the garden where I made mud pies topped with stones and grass . Summer days were spent outside from morning and until night, so each day I was soaking in all of the goodness from the air. At age 10 we moved to the town and I remember finding it hard to sleep as the room seemed so light from the street lamps outside. I still played outside of course but not as much, and any time in an actual green space, with grass and tress or sand and sea, required a journey of some kind. Sometimes it was a 20 minute walk to the park and sometimes it was a train ride to the seaside. Sometimes a car ride to “the countryside” where we would park up and explore where we were before returning to the house in the street, in the town.
Natural spaces are not always going to be right on our doorstep so why should we bother to find them and spend time in them ?
I know just in my own mind and body, that when I spend time in nature I feel calmer, more present and more focussed. Recently I was unwell and I had barely been outside for 3 weeks and I just yearned to be somewhere that wasn’t the stuffy confides of my bedroom. It reminded me of my father. He spent his entire life living in the countryside, the home where I grew up. He never moved to the town with the rest of us but he would visit. He would complain as he walked upon the hard pavement of the pain in his knees this harsh surface was causing him. He, like myself, would struggle to sleep and he coughed as the car fumes entered his clean lungs. These elements were alien to his body. When he sunk into a deep depression he spent some time in a mental health hospital. He was not allowed outside and this caused him unmeasurable harm. One day I was allowed to supervise him as we walked in the grounds. A fence stood between us and a small stretch of grass and trees. My father climbed over onto the grass, out of the hospital grounds, against the rules and immediately lay down on the grass, getting as much of his body onto the earth as he could. I climbed over too and sat with him until the staff discovered us and we were ushered back inside. I remember attempting to explain to them the incident but I am quite sure they did not understand.
That’s my story, but is there any more? Does the research tell us why all this goodness happens? What do we need to know that will push us to make that journey to the park, the beach, the green open spaces or even get our hands into the earth and plant a seed in a window box on the side of our high rise flat?
Here are some actual scientific facts I discovered about fresh air. Apparently fresh air is good for our digestive system ! Well I never. Fresh air increases the flow of oxygen around our body helping us to digest food more effectively. Polluted air on the other hand makes it harder for that oxygen to get around the body ahead of the fumes which can affect our blood pressure.
It makes you happier! Yes you heard it here first folks. Increasing the amount of oxygen in our bodies increases the amount of serotonin (the amazing happy hormone) that we breath in…making us happier, woohoo !
As we breath in all this fresh air our white blood cells are supported. These fight and kill bacteria and germs. Does your immune system need a boost? I know mine does so I am really interested in this one.
Now, it makes sense that breathing in a ton of toxins is never going to be great for our lungs but I had not realised that breathing in fresh clean air actually cleans our lungs out. As we breath the toxins are released from our lungs. I love a good detox so I am all over this one as a way to really refresh and cleanse my body.
I mentioned earlier that after time outside I always feel my mind is more focused and again this is all down to the science. The increased oxygen improves our brains ability to function and gives us more energy. The thing I believe about this stuff is that we already know it deep down. An argument or a stressful situation and we are instinctively drawn to take five, take a walk, go outside for some fresh air and this is why. Our body and mind know what we need, they guide us and we are in a position to listen…or not, that is the choice we all have.
Notice this has nothing to do with temperature. Fresh air can be enjoyed no matter the weather and of course a nice injection of sunshine will increase our vitamin D which is also great for boosting up our health and happiness, but even when an extra jumper is required to keep us cosy the message seems clear. Perhaps not as clear as the air we might find on our doorstep but clear enough for us to seek that clean air out and protect it.
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