Bringing nature into your home
The lockdown has forced many of us to change our routines and inevitably spend longer in our shared living space, although goodness knows, I’ve walked around every part of the nearby park multiple times over the last year.
Many of the new routines are positive and indeed many people have reported happy days doing things they didn’t have time for in the past. Some have had the opportunity for new learning or new enjoyment.
For those lucky enough to have a garden this has included time getting everything looking tip top, but even for those without gardens people have been busy bringing some of the outdoors inside.
A number of commentators have spoken about the pleasures of growing microgreens on kitchen window sills, both for the pleasure of nurturing something and also for fresh food.
People report that they have time to observe the plants growing daily and there is something reassuring about watching the Earth produce food before your very eyes.
Bringing nature into the home
This made me think about other natural things that can make us feel good at home – especially in a shared living space. Some things may require a change of house or flat, but many of the things can be incorporated into the building we already live in, given the landlord’s permission of course. But as landlords are particularly keen to hang onto their tenants, now might be the time to request some simple changes to make your shared living space better.
Here are some things you can do together or on your own.
- Open the windows, even if it means putting on a pullover to keep warm. Besides a bit of fresh air, the sounds of the street can be quite pleasant and remind us that life goes on and will return to normal at some point. Being scientific about this, Google tells us that the more fresh air we get, the more oxygen we will breathe, which will increase the amount of serotonin (the happy hormone) that we produce, consequently making us happy. Sounds good to me.
- This brings us to ventilation, because getting enough fresh air in and the bad air out is important. I’ve already heard a Radio 4 interview with someone designing UV filter systems to filter air. I am not suggesting that most shared homes offer this, but thinking about where the fresh air is coming from and how stale air gets out is important.
- In terms of getting the stale air out, this led me to think about the materials and products used in constructing the building and then regularly in cleaning your home. Besides cooking creating indoor pollutants, not to mention smells, some plastics, concrete and cleaning agents are thought to pollute, so a reassessment of what is used in the house makes sense. If we don’t spend too much time in a room or space then this matters less, but now we might take more care and will feel the benefits of a change. Architects think about these things – the ultimate being Passive House designs – but we need to think about them in existing houses and flats.
- Sunlight and light in general is so important. Waking up to the sun just makes you feel better as we all know. Well, we can’t do anything abut the weather (climate another discussion) and true, direct sunlight on a UK summer’s morning at 4:30 a.m. can be a pain, but good curtains or blinds can solve that seasonal issue. Which way does your room or lounge space face? Can you look out over a garden or roof line to the sky or even bathed in morning sun? When selecting a place to live this can be an important consideration. Ask about the light at different times of day and see details of a room’s aspects in ‘Rooms for rent’ descriptions. Then there is your bedroom (your room) itself. When sharing we will spend relatively more time in our own room or even need to work from home in our room, so light and air are important.Once again, natural daylight and some sun can boost not only our well-being but also our physical health. Natural daylight also helps us to stay alert during the day.
- Move between rooms and don’t stay in one room all day – instead move around with the light. If you have agreement with you housemates and landlord then work in the lounge or kitchen when it’s bright.
- Decorate rooms for light and well-being as well as comfort. It is amazing how decorating or reorganizing a room can give you more energy. It’s easier and cheaper than moving home!
- Bring more nature inside. Moving back to where I started this piece, having a view of something green and natural is a distinct advantage in any property. If you haven’t got a view then bring nature inside with an attractive plant or by growing those microgreens. Not only can you look at nature but it will also give you oxygen and something to care for.
- Ensure you have a good night’s sleep with a decent mattress and fresh sheets. A lot of people have reported doing more housework during lockdown which makes sense because we are creating more mess at home but also because we are noticing things more. It’s easy to let housework lapse, but it’s in our interest to keep our space fresh and clean.
- If pets are allowed then these can be another way to bring nature closer. I do not suggest that you have a dog or even a cat if you live in a flat unless there is a good park nearby, or have a garden or are able to walk two to three times a day; it’s just not fair on the animal. My particular favourite are fish – both tropical and garden pond fish. I’ve had great pleasure first stocking and then maintaining a small aquarium and built a garden pond more than once. There’s something very relaxing about watching them. Not everyone’s kettle of fish (get it!), so what’s yours?
Thinking about how to get nature inside, don’t forget to get outside in nature and take a good walk at least once if not twice a day both for fitness and a break. You can use a free fitness app like Strava to track your progress over time, set goals for your walks and set up walking clubs with your friends or colleagues for extra motivation.
Enjoy your shared space.
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