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  • Jan Ockendon

Fresh air really is good for you.

Unless we are shielding most of us probably are spending more time outside. I wonder what benefits you are feeling from it? Have you stopped to really think or take stock of the benefits you have gained from being in the fresh air more?

Aside from the obvious physical benefits from the synthesis of Vitamin D from sunshine there are huge benefits to our mental health as well. It is widely accepted that being outside can lower levels of cortisol in our bloodstream. Cortisol is the stress hormone and high levels of stress can be associated with many things such as depression and obesity. Finding a green space to spend some time in can help us to reset this and lower our stress levels allowing us to feel calmer and more able to continue with our life.

In previous centuries people in Japan were encouraged to spend time in forests to benefit their health. This is a concept we now know as "forest bathing" which is thought to have evolved from Japanese Shinrin-Yoku Forest Therapy. Some studies have shown being outside can sharpen our focus and boost our immune system as well. I know I am lucky to live in quite a green city but most cities will have an oasis of greenery somewhere. Even finding time to plant some window boxes for a flat window or for outside your door can be extremely helpful in lifting mood and lowering anxiety.

All these pictures were taken on a walk in an "urban trail" an oasis of calm which spans many beautiful miles of woodland and trails through what was many years ago an industrialised part of our local area. Some of the streams would have fed the mill race then and if you look carefully there are still the old stone walls and remains of old stone buildings. If this is the case in our city I wonder what might be available in yours? I challenge you to go and find an oasis in your city, a green space to walk or just sit in. Even if that happens to be a square in the city centre with a bit of green and a few trees. Or why not plant your own, some herbs on your window ledge or veggies in a container. My grandad used to have tomatoes along the window in their living room, it made him happy to see them grow and to have home grown tomatoes in a salad. Even if you are short of space, lots of things grow well in a grow bag. Just think of the sense of wellbeing that would come from the achievement of planting your own little green oasis of calm. Typically, as I finish this post it is pouring with rain but our green spaces will be all the better for it.

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