Americans, like most people in developed countries, spend more time indoors and staring at screens than we ever have before.
Eight hours a day at work, then countless hours watching the latest must-see TV series or streaming movies, plus social media, and video games…
Our modern lives take us away from nature, but studies have should that interacting with nature and even just being outside can have many benefits. Cognitive ability improves when time is spent outside, and nature is linked with a lowering of stress levels and an increase of general happiness.
In fact, people who spend more time with nature tend to have more positive social interactions and an increased feeling of well-being – and according to one study, children who have had more exposure to green spaces in their childhood report 55% less occurrences of psychiatric disorders.
Whether you work from home or commute to the office, chances are that you are not spending enough time outside, but there are small changes you can make to your outside space to create a welcoming, comfortable natural oasis that is still functional.
This is usually the hardest part of creating a usable outside space, and it is definitely the most expensive.
You want to create a space that can be used by you and your whole family, with a balance between plants and grass as well as a patio or deck. You’ll probably want to consider things like storage, or even creating some kind of outdoor room.
To minimize costs here, you can do much of the labour yourself especially if there is limited need to dig foundations for buildings – and you can often find elements that you can use in the leftovers bin at a landscaping supplier.
No oasis is complete without some privacy, and if your outdoor space is not shaded with trees or you have a neighbour that overlooks, you might want to consider privacy fencing. You’ll have to check the rules for fencing in your area and it might be covered in the Homeowners Association rules, but if you can install high fences that is great.
Adding trellis and creeping plants brings some more color to your yard and makes the space feel greener.
Spending time in nature in your own back yard is more enjoyable if you can sit in comfort. You can have a simple bistro-style table and chairs, or more expansive sun loungers to soak up the rays.
Adding a fire pit gives you the excuse of al fresco evening entertainment, or why not look into an outdoor pizza oven for terrace dining?
Even if you are not a green-fingered gardener, you can still get beautiful results using different ways of planting. You might not want the added inconvenience of maintaining flowerbeds around the lawn, but there are other less labour-intensive ways to add color and life.
Container planting is both low cost and low effort, and if you make use of perennial plants, you know they will come back year after year to give your outdoor space a boost.
If you think of this new outdoor space as an extension of your home, you will start to think about stylistic elements that you might want to include. If you have the climate for it, a lush green jungle theme can be achieved with lots of leafy plants and brightly colored flowers.
You might want to head a bit more Mediterranean with an earthy pastel color scheme and creeping grapevines.
A space you want to use outside needs to be comfortable and welcoming, whether you are creating an extra ‘room’ for entertaining or just somewhere to sit and enjoy nature.
Think about creating comfortable seating areas with cushions and rugs – just check that the fabrics you use are suitable for the outdoors.
Lighting is also important, and there are many different options to choose from. Solar-powered fairy lights wrapped around bushes and trees or slung along the fence line provide warmth and color.
Creating an outdoor oasis on your own property will help you to get away from the screen and get more in touch with nature – perfect for those busy days when you just need to take a breath and relax.