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A Little Bit of Fresh Air

We have now reached the half-way point in our five-week series on self-appreciation. 

I am hoping that by now you have tried at least once to do an act of self-love when you wake up in the morning, and started writing down some things you are grateful for. Is there anything new that you have learned about yourself or what you are thankful for? Drop me a note and let me know.

By the middle of the day, we usually need a break to eat, refresh our minds, and maybe rest a bit. One bad habit that I had developed for my lunch hour was to grab something to eat, and then sit in front of a computer and read the news while I ate my lunch. I admit that it was very satisfying, but by the end of my workday, I used to feel extremely tired and unable to concentrate. That was when I came up with the idea of changing my lunch time routine. I decided to look into the benefits of going outdoors for my lunch time, and was amazed at what I found.

So many medical and psychiatric studies have highlighted the positive effects of being outdoors on both the physical and mental health of humans. There is literally an entire class of diseases that are referred to as “building-related illnesses,” that people who spend more than 90% of their lives indoors are susceptible to. For people who live in big, industrialized cities, it is even more essential to get outside air. Make sure to get at least five minutes of fresh air in the middle of the day. I can’t possibly stress the benefits of this enough.

Our bodies were designed for outdoors air. When we are outside, we get the exact level of oxygen that our body needs. Fresh air improves our lung heath, blood pressure, mental focus, and mood. If you make it a point to walk outside – or at least stand next to an open window – for at least five minutes in the middle of the day, you will note the difference it makes in how refreshed you feel. Making this a daily practice around lunchtime will have the added benefit of reminding you of your top priority: your own well-being. This will not take too much time away from your workday, but will give you enough energy and focus to be much more productive in the afternoon, so you will more than make up for the time you put into it.

Even if you live in a cold climate, bundle up and get that air. Remember that Inuits spend a lot of time outdoors, so you can’t use cold weather as an excuse to avoid getting fresh air; just make sure to bundle up.

Although I’m recommending these activities mostly as things to do during the weekdays, I encourage you to make getting fresh air a priority for the weekends as well. If you live in an industrial region, then try to get away to a less populated, more natural place on the weekends. Even if you just drive out to a natural spot and park with your car windows rolled down, you will feel the benefits of it. For those of you who are lucky like me and live in places where the weather is not harsh, then make sure to go on a walk or a hike at least once a week.

As always, if you try making this a new habit, write to me and let me know how it is going. If you find it a challenge to incorporate this change, I’d like to hear about that too.

Sunrise over Zion National Park; Watchman’s Trail

Personal story:

Given my history of Lyme Disease, I take the COVID-19 physical distancing protocols very seriously. After six months of working from home, I started developing a serious case of cabin fever. Yes, I do sit under my open window, and I go outside or walk around the neighborhood daily, but none of it was enough. I found that I could not focus, my motivation was almost gone, and my productivity was diminishing.

I know that we are all children of nature, and figured that I must be in need of more time outdoors. I decided that I would go and stay somewhere else for a few days and work remotely from there. I found a place right outside of the Zion National Park in Utah, and took my daughters there for ten days. We drove there to minimize the risk of exposure to others. Each day, before starting work, we would go for an early morning hike. On some days, when I could shift my schedule around, we went on longer car trips or full-day hikes. We managed to see not only Zion, but also Bryce Canyon, White Pocket, and the northern part of the Grand Canyon. The air in these regions is crisp and clean.

Ever since coming back, I find that I have my focus, motivation, and productivity back. Taking the time to go out into nature and get some fresh air has made a world of difference in how I am feeling.

Sayeh Beheshti, M.D.