Perhaps the realization of more time at home under quarantine, isolation, and distancing has brought a newfound appreciation of the world immediately outside your door. The days when you rushed off your patio in an effort to not be late to a dinner reservation have stalled, and the days where you now are appreciative to step out and simply sit on your patio have awoken!
As frustrating as it is to be locked down at home, this time for pause has hopefully allowed you to realize the beauty of spring literally blooming right before your eyes. Have you felt better when you stepped outside for some fresh air? Have you heard the birds and seen the squirrels in the trees or flowers emerging from the ground? Has the simplicity of walking around your block brought you more joy than you had previously realized? Was there something unique in your neighborhood that you never recognized before? Have you have taken your yard, patio and local parks for granted? Congratulations, you have made a connection to your Exterior Environment!
Looking from the outside in and from the inside out feels good! So, it's no surprise that walking around the block feels amazing since it is beneficial for you physically and mentally. Did you know that stepping outside to enjoy your exterior environment has been found to reduce stress in as little as five minutes? Even looking out the window has positive health benefits. These benefits include lower anxiety, better sleep, improved focus and lower rates of depression. Only you know how you feel, but with the backing of science, it may be a good time to reconsider how you can further continue the rituals of connecting with your exterior environment post-quarantine.
You don't need to travel far to appreciate the offerings of the outdoors. This triangle diagram shares planning principles that include the type of outdoor environment related to the frequency visited in a year. As you would suspect, outdoor spaces are designed to enhance these aspects. For example, an Iconic location (National Park) is designed to have overlooks and benches at certain photographic viewpoints, a Community park is designed for half-day activities and picnics, while a Local park is designed with amenities appropriate for frequent, short term and often daily visits from the neighbors. Taking the design considerations of amenities and frequency as your inspiration, you too can design your own exterior environment to meet your needs.
If your exterior environment needs some love, consider what you want to see and how you want to use that space every day. This is the easiest improvement and integration of improved experience you can make in your day to day life and it doesn't need to cost a lot of money. When you like the space you are much more likely to use it! You have the power to create your environment!
Some questions to consider for improving your connection with the Exterior Environment:
What do you want to incorporate into your everyday experience?
Would you like a new patio or outdoor eating area, what about a bench? What would you use? Do you want to include a color that makes you happy? This can be with paint, pots, plant material, furnishings, furniture and even fabric. If you enjoy the front of your house multiple times a day, but dislike the color and materials on the porch, you can change this! Also, don't forget about shade and sun at certain times of the day, maybe you want to add shade or trim trees to allow the sun in. Start by creating a journal of your dream outdoor space.
What improvements you can make that enhance the view from inside?
Do you look out on your yard that is lifeless? What can you add to this space that can enhance the view? This may be as simple as rearranging rocks or adding plant materials, artwork, or seating areas. Can the lighting use some improvement or would you use the area more if there were less lights? Does the color red make you glow? If so, why not add some red to your patio in the form of an outdoor rug? So much thought goes into the inside of your home and the outside is often overlooked, yet just as important. As we approach the summer months, it is a great time to rethink that space! Look around your house and find what aesthetic you can incorporate outdoors .
How can you connect with the exterior environment longer and more frequently?
Do you like to watch birds? If so,consider creating a bird sanctuary in your yard. Do you like to entertain? Create an outdoor dining room with an herbal garden to serve fresh mint at your garden party. Love to lounge? Hang a hammock. Love to dance to music, strategically place speakers or create a wind chime garden to create harmonic sounds. Tired of working out inside? Take the weights and yoga to the lawn!. Family game night redundant at the kitchen table? Draw a game with chalk on the sidewalk. Videoconferencing calls got you down? Create your next background with a mosaic of mirrors or the trellis full of flowers. List out activities you continually do inside and brainstorm how can now enjoy them outside.
Do you want a walk in your neighborhood to feel like an adventure? If so, make an effort to take a different route every day. Adding variety to the direction in which you walk can change your perspective. Do you have a vision for your favorite park where a lovely park bench can be placed? Talk to your local park department as they are typically welcome to ideas and donations. You can donate benches and trees, or even start a fundraiser for a special project. Want to care for flowers, but can't afford any or don't have the space? Get involved with your local public gardens to volunteer or rent a garden plot. Create a vision board of how you want to connect with the outdoors in the upcoming months.