Spending time outdoors in the fresh air, a little bit sunshine and regular physical activity is essential for good physical and mental health. Yet with many community events across Australian cancelled, social-distancing rules and even limits on the number of people you can invite into your home, it’s created a double-edged sword hampering both social interaction and the amount of time most people would normally spend outdoors. This is why it’s more important than ever before to create a great outdoor space for good mental health.
With so many travel restrictions in place this year, people are staying home more. They’re investing in renovations, updates and expanding their outdoor areas… staying home is the new going out. — Monica Porter, Early Settler furniture buyer
A great way to bring the great outdoors into your home every day is with an indoor–outdoor flow. If space allows, install a deck or patio or unite your living area with an outdoor area via sliding glass or bifold doors. Keep doors open on warmer days to allow the fresh cross-breezes to fill your home and filter out the stagnant energy.
Windows that frame the garden view (even if it’s just the park across the street) also work to invite the outdoors inside every day. Studies show that seeing blue skies, trees rustling in the breeze, bodies of water and birds flying by have a subconscious impact on lifting mood and mental energy. In fact, increasingly therapists are ‘prescribing’ a new treatment to deal with stress, anxiety and depression: it’s called nature. Keep your windows clean and curtains open during the day if possible. If you don’t have a nature view, get a beautiful print or canvas that uplifts you. If you can, take a regular walk among the trees, by the lake or on the beach every day, particularly if you’re feeling fatigued, stressed or melancholy.
An outdoor area can work as an additional living room for the house, which is more important than ever with so many social restrictions in place across the country. Undercover decks, for instance, can be utilised all year round — particularly when paired with bistro blinds and an outdoor-heating source.
A wonderful way to make your outdoor area feel like an extension of your interior is with zoning. Create a space for lounging, a cooking space for the barbecue, a space for dining and even an area for day beds if you enjoy soaking up the sun. We came across some really special pieces of outdoor furniture this year with a resort-style feel that bring the holiday feeling home to your own deck, patio or garden. — Monica Porter
No space? No worries! Even a tiny patio is a great outdoor space for good mental health. It doesn’t matter whether you have a big deck or a petite balcony, there are plenty of ways to make an alfresco oasis to help you relax. Find a lovely corner of your garden, balcony or courtyard to set up a quiet outdoor sitting area — even if only a small settee, sunbed or hanging basket chair. Finding even a little slice of the outdoors to relax and switch off can do wonders for mental health.
The mood-altering magic of plants has been long recognised for their power to help destress, elevate mood and even improve memory! And as an added bonus, it doesn’t matter if you space is big or small — you can plant a paradise in the garden, in a series of pot plants or in hanging baskets.
Think outside of the box when it comes to picking plants — colourful flowers, creeping vines, trellises, raised veggie beds and vertical gardens of edible herbs all have benefits on mood and mental health. Create a beautiful aesthetic with lots of eclectic pots and baskets. And don’t forget your interior… let your exterior and interior spaces unite with plants galore.
Of course, if you’re not blessed with a green thumb, faux plants are the next best thing. Research shows that even mimicking nature with plants, prints and natural materials to create calming spaces has a significant impact on our mental health.
In fact, the design trend of incorporating nature and natural patterns within your home and outdoor areas has even coined its own term — biophilia. We’ll be seeing more and more of it in years to come as designers and architects recognise the importance of nature on human health and wellbeing and how this can be translated into our homes and places of work.
Top tips for good mental health
1 Create an outdoor space to relax and unwind.
2 Unite your indoors and outdoors if you can (such as sliding glass doors).
3 Invest in plenty of plants both indoors and out.
4 Stay active with regular walks to release the happy hormone: serotonin.
5 Eat well with plenty of fruits, veggies and water.
6 Soak up the sun. Your regular walk will help you absorb precious vitamin D.
7 Get enough sleep — 7 to 9 hours for adults and 10 to 12 hours for kids.