The first canon of nursing, the first essential to the patient, is to keep the air he breaths as pure as external air, without chilling him! – Florence Nightingale
As the days shorten and the sweets entice us, many find themselves struggling with symptoms of excess. Excess calories, excess food, excess work demands, excess family commitments and of course, not enough sleep and relaxation. The weather turns cold and the nights run long. Advertisers call this the flu season. So what can we do to encourage healing, if we do find ourselves “under the weather?”
Go outside! Turns out there increasingly more and more evidence suggests that fresh air has an antibiotic effect. While this isn’t new–Florence Nightingale threw the windows open (as well as did other things) in hospitals in the mid 19th century and drastically reduced death rates. TB sanitariums were notoriously set in the mountain air, and even the World Health Organization urges healthcare settings to use natural ventilation as much as possible. So what about my home or my workplace? Am I letting nature support my immune functioning? Am I increasing my protection by having more fresh air?
What can you do? For one, make sure you get at least an hour a day of time outdoors. Something relaxing like walking dog, taking a hike, or gardening, is always nice, but it doesn’t have to these activities Consider simply sitting outside during lunch, or taking a break in the fresh air throughout the day. If you live a cold climate, it’s good medicine to put on your winter coat and walk to the store or bring in the wood. In fact, ultraviolet light kills bacteria leaving human cells unharmed. You don’t need to purchase a UV light, nature provides during daylight hours right outside your door. Don’t be fooled by the clouds or the rain.
Meanwhile, the air in your home and office too has to be considered. In this age of green building design and energy conservation, office buildings may not have windows that open. Homes are super insulated. If you are not feeling well, rather than sealing yourself up in a sauna, make sure you have fresh air in your room. If you have to turn the heat up a bit, or bundle up, no matter. The air that you breath is the medicine you are looking for optimal healing. Fresh air in the car is a must and making sure you have sources of fresh air at work are all necessary for keeping your respiratory system clean.
Of course, the sun provides another valuable healing medicine, it stimulates vitamin D. production, which too has many therapeutic qualities. Evidence continues to mount that Americans are not getting enough vitamin D. Your time outdoors is critical for a host of functions that vitamin D supports. There are other benefits as well. Time in nature affords moments of connecting with animals in nature, or the awe of a beautiful sunset. All have salutary or healing benefits.
Another benefit of time in nature is the potential for movement/ exercise. As we struggle to right ourselves from acute infections, getting out of bed and out for a short walk helps stimulate circulation as well as digestion. Movement is essential for healing. This can be our own movements, walking, jogging, dancing, exercising, as well as internal movement, such as regular digestion and full respiration. And there is the movement of the air that we breath.
Simply put, keep the air moving in you life and as Florence Nightingale said “Never be afraid of open windows.”