Continuing the series on the habits that I find are essential to my life: the habit of fresh air, both inside and outside the house. (The first habits were rest, eating well, and exercise.)
I do feel a little old-fashioned in my love for fresh air, both inside and outside the house. It's the type of thing I think people valued several generations ago, but that for some reason we don't really seem to value today. That's interesting, because with modern building methods, we have more airtight homes and offices....which means we probably need intentional exposure to fresh air more than ever!
Fresh Air Inside
My grandmother kept her bedroom window cracked year-round in all types of weather because the fresh air was good for her, and I agree. Have you ever noticed how stuffy a bedroom can be in the morning? Or how stuffy a house can be if closed up for a week or two (or more)? Fresh air is, of course, the cure.
We do a lot of living inside our homes--sleeping, working, cooking; sometimes there are pets, babies, messes, etc. Frequent airing-out is essential to keep the house sweet.
I like to sleep with my window open sometimes. I'd do it all the time, but my husband prefers it closed on very cold nights. In the morning when I get up I like to open up the front door and slide the glass down so that a breeze comes through the screen. If it's a chilly day I may only slide it down a few inches, but it lets in a little air. I also sometimes open our deck door in the morning to get a cross-breeze. I almost always open my bedroom window in the morning, at least a few inches and often more than that, to let the bed air out for a while before I make it. I don't always remember to air out my children's bedrooms, but I do try to do it a few times a week. Our house is small with an open floor plan and I have noticed that fresh air flows pretty easily from room to room, which is nice.
There's something pleasant about fresh air in the evenings, too. I love hearing spring peepers, or cicadas, or crickets, or cows, through the screen. I love smelling the scent of hay or woodsmoke. I realize not everyone lives in the country where these are the sounds and scents of nighttime, but more urban areas have their charms, too--maybe the sound of children playing outside, or neighbors talking, or music from a nearby house.
My goal each day is to simply air out the house pretty well each morning, to keep it aired most of the day if the weather and our schedule permit, and sometimes to keep a window or two open at night. If we're gone all day one of the first things I do when returning home is open the house up for some air!
Fresh Air Outside
I'm a believer that getting outside into the fresh air is a cure-all for some of our ailments of modern life (including, but not limited to: malaise, ennui, boredom, depression, anxiety, irritability, low energy, poor immune function....). Not only does Vitamin D help boost our immune system and mood, just being outside and getting a change of scenery from the four walls of a house or office is so refreshing. My children understand that I require them to get fresh air every day! In extremely cold temperatures or dangerous weather they do have to stay inside, but most of the time I require them to be outside for at least half an hour-ish a day. Sometimes they do not want to go outside, but I force them go, and then they want to stay out for hours!
Fresh air isn't only required for children, either: I require myself to get fresh air every day, too. I am a much more balanced person if I take a walk every afternoon, or get outside to putter around, or take my children to the park. It's much easier to achieve this when the weather is warm (when the obligations of gardening begin to take over my life, and the pool is open), but I try to do it even in very cold weather. I distinctly remember one walk I took in January, when I was bundled up from head to toe, and it was very cold outside.....just walking laps around the large field behind our house. I had to have a scarf wrapped around my face! But oh, I felt so good when I was done with that walk......
After our trip to Finland years ago I remember reading a book about Finnish housekeeping and the comment was made that Finnish mothers typically put their babies outside to sleep, even in very cold temperatures. With the right clothing, being outside in the cold isn't harmful. And the climate where I live is nothing like Finland's! So I have no excuse not to get outside, even in January or February.
I remember one night a few years ago. I was cleaning up the dinner dishes and was in a petulant, irritable mood. I'd been heavy-laden with my responsibilities that day and was snippy with my family. Each night we take compostable materials outside, and that night I reluctantly grabbed the compost and my coat and trudged out.
But I was arrested in my self-inflicted misery by the beauty of the quiet night. The sky was clear and I could see what seemed like all the stars. The night was cold and still. The locust grove east of our house stood dignified and quiet. Everything was beautiful. And those two or three minutes outside completely changed my attitude and my perspective. When I came back inside, I was better. Just standing in God's creation for a couple of minutes had quieted all my anxieties and cured my bad mood. It was a wonderful revelation, and I've used Going Outside many times ever since to regulate my mood.
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Fresh air is another one of those very simple and basic things that seems commonsensical and perhaps not even worth nothing, but I think it's noteworthy because we stay inside so much more now than our ancestors did. I don't think that this is an entirely healthy trend. Even on rainy days it's nice to sit on a covered porch and just watch the rain. Our homes are bigger than ever and fuller than ever. We own so much stuff and all that stuff requires so much attention, care, arranging, putting away, etc. But sometimes that makes us hyper-focus on these transient, temporary things (STUFF) and not live fully enough in the reality that this world is large and beautiful and old, and that we are meant by God to truly enjoy His creation! So open the window and go for a walk....it's refreshing and good for the soul.