Over the last twenty years both adults and children have slowly moved away from the outdoors. Despite all the scientific evidence that time spent outside is not just good for us, it’s essential, we remain in our boxes, looking out at the sun.
It seems that sun is the problem. For years we have been told that sunlight is harmful and leads inexorably to skin cancer, so much so that most of us spend far too little time outside and an estimated 30-50 percent of the population are deficient in vitamin D, a substance our bodies can manufacture by itself, but only in the presence of sunlight. Many take supplements as a result, till others find the lack of vitamin D in their bodies leads to conditions like osteoporosis.
Studies have shown that sensible exposure to the sun actually reduces skin cancer as well as having all sorts of other health benefits, so how can we persuade ourselves and our children to spend more time outside in the natural world instead of living in a box taking supplements and drugs we could otherwise avoid?
One way is to create outdoor rooms. It may come as a surprise to your children, but you can use a PSP or other hand held game console just as well inside as out, so one way to start is by setting up an area where there’s plenty of shade and somewhere comfortable to sit. Fountains are quite easy to install and the rhythm of running water creates a sense of tranquility. What’s more, the decor of your outdoor room, the plants you grow, can usually be put to good use as well as being decorative.
Start with an eating area, placed near the house, but modern resin outdoor furniture includes sofas and easy chairs, so its easy to create an outdoor living room where everyone can gather gathered around a coffee table, or even a firepit. It may take time to introduce more evolutionary ideas, like spending leisure time outside away from the computer or the television, but go slowly, the idea could catch on!
Planting your outdoor living area with tubs filled with herbs will fill the air with fragrance; it’s also the most natural way to keep harmful insects at bay. Lavender in shades of blue, pink or white will scent your surroundings, but the dried flowers are a fantastic addition to honey, make great potpourri and can be added to herbal tea for a lovely calming effect. Leaves from basil, rosemary and mint steeped in hot water and added to a bath will sooth aching feet and muscles while herb infused vinegars and oils are easy to make and will enhance all your meals. Fresh herbs like thyme add glorious flavor to anything you grill outdoors. Dried plants and herbs can be used to create natural remedies and cosmetics as well as natural insect repellents which are often more effective that the store bought chemical versions and far less toxic. From there it’s not difficult to learn to make herbal teas and tinctures, salves, creams and lotions, thus reducing your use of harsh and artificial chemicals.
For far too long we’ve stayed inside and lost our natural connection with the outdoors. A love of plants, and knowledge of their properties is an asset to every household, and using modern patio furniture to form the foundation of an outdoor living room is a good way to start. Let your imagination be the walls, and for your canopy, choose the stars.