Written By Lucy Peters
The average American is believed to spend nearly 90% of their life indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This equates to being outdoors for a total of one half of one day per week. Patients who are in isolation due to being immunocompromised or testing positive for a contagious disease may spend even less time outdoors. This can result in increased anxiety, a compromised circadian rhythm, and even an increasingly suppressed immune system. Thankfully, there are a number of ways in which a healthcare professional can help an isolated patient spend time outdoors.
Highlight the benefits of spending time outside
A patient is more likely to make an effort to spend time outside if they are aware of the benefits they may enjoy. There are a number of science-backed benefits that can be highlighted. Spending time outside can reduce cortisol levels which will boost your overall mood according to a Japanese nature therapy study. Spending time outdoors can also help accelerate healing according to the University of Pittsburgh while a Harvard Medical School publication concurs that outdoor time will boost Vitamin D levels significantly. Spending time outdoors can also aid in reducing the mental fatigue that often presents itself during periods of illness.
Suggest simple yet beneficial outdoor activities
Although structured outdoor therapy sessions may yield impressive results, it is not always a viable option. Healthcare professionals are in a good position to suggest simple yet beneficial ways that will increase the time an isolated patient spends outdoors. Going for a walk, even if just around the garden, will yield benefits both associated with being outside as well as physical activity. Patients can also be encouraged to conduct a range of everyday activities, such as reading and catching up on social media, outside. While a deck or porch is ideal places for these, finding a sunny spot near an open window will also suffice.
What if going outdoors isn’t an option?
For some isolated patients, going outside isn’t an option due to a variety of reasons. According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, simply viewing natural settings can boost physiological well-being considerably. These findings can be supported in a number of ways. By encouraging patients to open windows to allow fresh air in, placing indoor plants or cut flowers in the home, or looking out into the garden, they may become privy to benefits typically associated with outdoor time. Apart from noticing a reduction in anxiety and stress, cognitive function may also be improved.
Spending time outdoors is of pertinent importance to isolated patients. Although different strategies may need to be employed for each, there are many ways these patients can be exposed to the outdoors and reap the subsequent benefits.
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