The Scottish-American naturalist John Muir, himself a big proponent of spending time cavorting about in nature, famously said, “Keep close to nature’s heart, break clear away once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
While not all of us are keen to climb mountains or spend a week in the woods—although maybe we should—we do benefit greatly from spending time out of doors, especially in more natural settings. Whether it’s a secluded forest, a city park, or even just a sunny patio decorated with potted greenery, there is something that connects with us when we remove ourselves from the confines of the great indoors.
A 2019 study of nearly 20,000 people found that those who spent at least 120 minutes in some sort of outdoor activity, be it sitting on a park bench or climbing a mountain (there was no discernible difference), resulted in significantly higher levels of self-reported well-being and overall health. We feel better if we spend at least two hours outside a week.
Given our recent experimentation with quarantining indoors, having access to fresh air, outdoor spaces and more natural environments have proven invaluable if not critical to our mental health. Why should this, therefore, be restricted to walks to the park, the luxury of a backyard, or a week in the woods?
Outdoor living spaces, whether part of our home or accessible to our residential environment have always been a wonderful feature when they are available. Decks, patios, balconies were always a desired amenity but then came rooftop gardens, pools and parks which changed what it meant to live in an urban environment.
The next frontier will undoubtedly involve more options to retract entire walls and open up larger interior spaces to the fresh air and light of the natural world. Larger spaces outside where we can be protected from the elements, but not be restricted to the artificial confines of circulated air.
As many of us are likely to continue to spend more and more time at home, we desire living spaces where we can breathe fresh air, bask in sunlight and grow among potted plants and soft seating. We want a life lived out of doors—at least some of the time. At least two hours a week ought to do it.