Outdoor Living Spaces for a Happier, Healthier You

Spending time outdoors can actually make you happier and healthier. Yep, you heard right. I don’t know about you, but this season of resolutions paired with a few glimpses of sunshine and warmer days already has me dreaming about being happier and healthier this year. Oh, and summer. I’m absolutely dreaming of summer. Late nights spent on the patio, icy beverage in hand, listening to squeals of delight as the kids and the fur-kids run around in the yard. It’s hard to picture a more perfect, relaxing evening.

Spending time outdoors can actually increase longevity! A 2015 study followed 108,630 American women to determine the relationship between nature and longevity. Women who lived near parks, lawns, trees, and forests had significantly lower mortality than women living far from nature. (Source: https://askthescientists.com/outdoors/ )

I see so many Pinterest-worthy outdoor spaces on the boards here at KGA for our custom home projects that I can’t help but add some outdoor living design ideas to my own “dream home” board – especially when I need a way to help ward off the winter chill. Guilty! Some of my favorites include gorgeous indoor-to-outdoor transitional spaces with floor-to ceiling glass, covered outdoor dining spaces elegantly clad in earth-tone stone, perhaps a two-sided fireplace, or a built-in stacked-stone outdoor kitchen. Definitely sign me up for that outdoor kitchen! (Check out our blog on designing the perfect outdoor kitchen for ideas) Thinking of grilling up a fresh meal has me feeling warmer, already.

Nature could be the answer to remembering names, not forgetting your keys, and taking better notes in class. There is growing evidence that both short-term and working memory can be improved by time spent outside. (Source: https://askthescientists.com/outdoors/ )

The Benefits of Outdoor Living

If you’re like most people, thinking of time spent in outdoor living spaces brings an almost immediate sense of peace. Does daydreaming about a sleek patio lit by the warm glow of Edison lights where you can curl up to read a book bring a smile to your face? Does imagining a lush garden attracting hummingbirds and butterflies surrounding a pergola where you can kick back and enjoy the fresh air make you feel a little more relaxed? You’re likely already aware of some of the health and wellness benefits of nature, if anything just from experiencing it. As it turns out there is a lot of truth to those feelings, and there are even physical changes that your body experiences in nature that contribute to feeling better emotionally.

Time outdoors can actually improve your immune system. Scientists think that breathing in phytoncides—airborne chemicals produced by plants—increases our levels of white blood cells, helping us fight off infections and diseases. (Source: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/70548/11-scientific-benefits-being-outdoors )

Time spent outdoors and away from screens can be transformative. So much research out there points to the seemingly endless health benefits you experience by getting outside, even just for short periods of time. Did you know that spending time in your garden or on your patio can actually lower cortisol (that nasty stress hormone)? With the busy lives we lead it’s no surprise that the American Institute of Stress reported last year that over 55% of Americans are dealing with stress, so we really need every tool in our arsenal to help combat stress and its nasty side-effects.

Some of the physical changes that occur also include reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and anxiety. All of these changes correspond to the positive experiences cited by people who regularly spend time outside – feeling a sense of calm, experiencing an elevated mood, and enjoying a boost in energy levels. Those benefits sound like they meet the self-care goals I’m setting for myself this year! And the icy beverage is just an added bonus.

Spending time outside can reduce inflammation. When inflammation goes into overdrive, it’s associated with a wide range of ills, including autoimmune disorders, IBS, depression, and cancer. Spending time in nature may be one way to help keep that in check. (Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/why-spending-more-time-outside-is-healthy-2017-7 )

When you’re thinking of designing your dream home, don’t overlook the value of creating amazing outdoor spaces, especially with the wonderful Colorado climate we are so privileged to enjoy. Why not get the most out of your property and your home by designing in a space where you can disconnect from the devices and demands that dominate daily life and reconnect to your roots. A space your well-being will call home. You don’t have to make a trip to the spa to catch up on R&R, after all, it could be as simple as stepping out your door.

About the Author

Shannon Ricketts joined KGA in March of 2019. A native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, she now calls Boulder home and can’t get enough of the Colorado lifestyle. Pretty much any time of the year you can find Shannon and her fiancé enjoying the outdoors with their rescued black lab, Shadow. Some of their favorite activities include backpacking, trail running, gardening, and winter camping. Shannon is passionate about living sustainably both in terms of reducing waste and prioritizing well-being.

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