Funny how we use the phrase, “a breath of fresh air”.  This signals that we certainly understand that there are benefits to fresh air.  For example, you might describe someone new that you meet as “a breath of fresh air”.   Yet, very few of us actually take a breath of fresh air.  Why not use this phrase literally and reap from it what you can?

Fresh air has restorative powers waiting for us all.  We can take in this tonic outside OR we can bring it indoors.  Either way, it’s magical.

Breathing fresh air indoors

In any space, the oxygen content goes down continually as you breathe out carbon dioxide and other wastes.  For many of us the spaces we live and work in go from heat to air conditioning followed by heat and then air conditioning once again.  Staying in an environment that is closed-in like this for a long period of time means you are breathing in the same air over and over again.  One big vicious cycle if you ask me.  Fresh air rectifies the situation and breaks this nasty cycle by allowing for a steady supply of oxygen for both your brain and your entire body.

Have you ever noticed the stale morning smell that lingers in a bedroom that has had the door closed throughout the night?  There’s a reason for this.  While you sleep you breathe moisture, breath odors and tons of microorganisms into the air, your pillow and your bedding.  Added to that you perspire, exude skin oils and body smells.  Multiply the amount of all these smells in a room by how many people sleep there.  No wonder it’s stinky.  For goodness sakes, open the windows and let some air into the room!  Better yet, follow the lead of what many Europeans have been doing since the beginning of time and air out your bedding.  Years ago while living in the Washington, DC area my dear friend, Peggy Love’s family bedding hung out each bedroom window airing out for the coming night’s sleep.  I loved seeing this and it made perfect sense to me.  Peggy knew the restorative powers of fresh air for the family bedding.  (She also had one gorgeous silver tea service but that’s a story for another day!)

Physiologically, fresh air makes a healthier environment for us.  There are psychological benefits as well.  Psychologically, the feeling of being closed-in can be constraining.  I was talking about this just recently with one of my many niece’s, Sarah Shrader.  I was visiting her new home in Richmond, VA and she was talking about how different it was compared to her home in San Diego.  In her home in San Diego the windows were always open.  Now in Richmond, she tended to keep them closed and it made her feel confined.  I understood exactly what she meant by that.  My body actually craves fresh air and regardless of the weather or the temperature somewhere in my house there is at least one window cracked.  Even in the middle of a Chicago winter!  And if weather permits, I have every window possible open.  I do right now.

Breathing fresh air outdoors

Hiking in nature

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Many of us spend very little time outdoors.  If we exercise, we do it on the treadmills or machines in our homes or we go to the gym.  Just the other day a friend told me she asked her son to go for a walk after dinner. He was actually baffled and asked her why she didn’t just get on her treadmill.  She told him that the fresh air would do them both good and they could also spend some time together.  He grudgingly went thinking all the while she was weird.  Unbelievable.

In past posts on this blog I have expressed the restorative powers that nature has for us.  (An example is my post, Let Nature Restoreth Your Soul (And Your Home).)  I learned this first hand myself.  I have always been a lover of the outdoors but it wasn’t until the past few years when I became inundated with way too much trauma-drama that I understood the healing powers of nature.  Let me explain…

I moved to the Chicago area a little over two years ago.  I came here kicking and screaming.  I left my business, my friends, my organic garden, my beautiful yard and my family back in Charlotte.  Seriously, I thought God had decided a traumatic divorce, a stalker, a chronically ill child, serious health issues of my own and an earth-shattering chance encounter on a plane weren’t enough to send me over the edge.  God had to throw me one more curve ball.  A Mack Daddy one to boot.  I had to move away from my kids, their spouses and grandchildren.  How could I hover over them so far away?  Weren’t they supposed to move away from me and not the other way around?

In the woods

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Home was with my David so I moved.  Once in Chicago I was faced with endless time on my hands.  I took to walking in nature.  With forest preserves all around me, it gave me something to do besides gourmet cooking and Law And Order reruns.

I started feeling better.  I noticed I was less angry and grumpy.  (So did my David for that matter.)  I slept better.   I smiled more.  The bliss began…

I owe it all to nature and fresh air.  No two ways about it.

The benefits of fresh air

Regardless of whether your are outdoors or inside, fresh air is vital to your essence.  Ponder these benefits you reap:

  • Fresh air helps the airways to your lungs dilate more fully.
  • Fresh air improves the cleansing action of your lungs.
  • Fresh air rids your body of accumulated impurities.
  • Fresh air improves your heart rate, blood pressure and metabolic rate.
  • Fresh air strengthens your immune system.
  • Fresh air soothes your nerves.
  • Fresh air improves your sleep.
  • Fresh air improves the serotonin levels in your brain.
  • Fresh air clears your mind.
Fresh air

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Recently I found myself unexpectedly back in Virginia.  My stay there was action packed to say the least and so any time I could, I spent it outdoors.  I played on the swings with grand nieces and nephews, Gavin, Ellie, Whitt and Logan.  I took a walk with niece Marli and the crew of babies and kids.  Even my niece, Christy wanted to make sure two month old Carina spent time outside.  She told me that her pediatrician actually prescribed outdoor air daily for precious Carina.  (You go, Doc!)  So, one evening her husband, Ryan and I stood outside with tiny Carina asleep in her stroller and five month old Maya nestled asleep in my arms.  Both babies were getting nature’s tonic of fresh air while Ryan and I talked.  What could be better?

Find ways to get a breath of fresh air.  Both you and your homespace deserve it.  Like the words in an old 60’s song by Three Dog Night, titled “Mama Told Me Not To Come”, open up the windows and let some air into the room.  Otherwise you’ll choke on the smell of stale perfume!

You’ll be glad you did.

To a breath of fresh air…

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Remember wondering if your parents had eyes in the back of their heads when you were growing up because they seemed to see and know every move you made?  Actually, what they were probably doing was they were using their peripheral vision, which allowed them to see the whole picture of what was going on. We undervalue what our eyes observe peripherally so using our peripheral vision to view our homes is probably something most of us don’t think about.

The science of peripheral vision

Heron

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

The vision we use called central vision is focal point vision.  It is what you see straight on as you are looking at something.

Peripheral vision is what you see outside central vision.  It is referred to as side vision or indirect vision. In simple terms, peripheral vision is what you see to your right and to your left while you are looking straight at something.

What the peripheral tells you

Obviously, peripheral vision takes in much less detail than central vision does.  But, I believe that it is in the peripheral area of vision that we actually get a fuller picture of something for our brain to process.  That’s because peripheral vision  mentally combined with central vision helps your brain see the whole picture.

Viewing space

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Whenever I am assessing a client’s space, I use several different techniques such as the one I discuss in a recent post, View Your Home Through The Lens Of A Camera.

(Fortunately or unfortunately, I do this in every home I enter be it a family member’s, a friend’s, acquaintance’s or client’s as I obsess over detail of space constantly.)

One of the most important techniques  of assessment I use is what I call “The Peripheral Vision Test”.  I am not sure if you would ever see this technique explained in a design manual or learn it in the classroom but, intuitively I know it really gives a good picture of the area or space I am critiquing.

Why not try it yourself?

Using the technique for yourself

It is really a simple technique to use in your homespace.  You can go room by room, area by area and do this to assess how your space makes you feel.  (Remember it is what you feel that matters as you look at something.)

Here’s the how to:

Stand in the center of an area of your home.  For example, stand in your entryway.  Look straight ahead with your arms down by your sides.  What do you see?

Now, concentrate on using your side vision looking straight ahead.  What do you see?

What thought comes to your mind when you take the entire picture of this space into your mind?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is what I see pleasing to my eye?
  • Does the complete picture of what I see have a good flow?
  • Is the complete picture cohesive?
  • Does anything I see jump out at me or seem out of place?

You can repeat this vision test throughout your home.  It really tells you a lot about your space and can help you ascertain any changes you might need to make to it.

Bird's eye view

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

For example, back in the foyer test I just used – you might realize that the room colors you have in the spaces to the right and left of the entryway don’t really flow well with what color you have on the walls in the foyer because you don’t feel good vibes from what you see overall.  Or, you might realize a piece of furniture needs to be moved slightly.  It is as if you have a feeling that something is just a tad off.  Question this and figure out what changes you need to make.

Now, if you find that you are not comfortable doing this yourself or don’t trust yourself, ask a close friend or family member to do this test in your home for you.  As long as you know that you will get an honest opinion, anyone willing to concentrate and take the time necessary can do this!

Here’s to getting a passing grade on this test!  Let me know how your home stacks up.  I would love to hear from you with the results of your experience in using your peripheral vision assessment test of your home.

Remember, it is just one more interesting way to observe your most private space- the space you call HOME.

Take the test…

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