This week, 15-24 June 2018 is National Picnic Week. Perhaps it passed your notice because you’ve been too busy and stressed at work?
I think it’s fantastic to remember such a great British tradition by highlighting this in the calendar and not just because I love picnics and healthy eating, but because the benefits of enjoying outdoors time are incrrr-‘edible’.
Probably though, like me, you’re stuck in the office this week, so I thought I’d recommend my own slant on the occasion called ‘Eat Your Lunch Outdoors Week’ and you can save the family picnic part until the weekend.
Why eat outdoors?
The eating part isn’t nearly as important as making time to extricate yourself from your office environment, especially if you are someone who isn’t compelled to break for an hour, which may mean you’re self-employed or working from a home office.
Most self-employed I know often feel guilty when they move away from their workstation for any longer than it takes to go to the loo or make a cuppa, but if you don’t take a regular lunch break your mental health and physical health will be affected and your body will tell you. So here are 5 reasons why you should go outdoors more, especially when it’s time to grab lunch.
1. Renew your focus (literally and metaphorically): A change of scene helps refresh you. Your brain and eyes become tired when working within a set focal range for too long especially if you work in a fluorescent windowless office or cubicle. You improve concentration and make fewer mistakes when you give your eyes and brain a rest by going outdoors.
2. Mood enhancing: Anxiety and depression are both connected strongly with urban living, noisy streets and harsh concrete environments, but fresh air and sunshine rejuvenates you physically and mentally. Boost lung function with a brisk walk in the park or to a quiet patch of woodland and de-stress your mind by appreciating the natural world around you. If you live in the North East of England like me the coast is fantastic. Did you know that Tynemouth has the best quality air in the country? We are lucky in this area: Lovely beaches, beautiful parks, gorgeous countryside and rolling hills. Visit www.northumberlandtourism.org.uk
3. Stress relieving: Natural greenery, flora and fauna allow peaceful contemplation and refresh the mind. When we are under pressure we forget to make quality time but outdoors away from noisy roads is a great stress reliever. Even if you work in an industrial estate you won’t be far from a park or a green space where you can sit down and enjoy the trees, the buzz of insects and birdsong, appreciating life and living in the moment. And don’t get stressed about taking time out because you’ll be more productive when you get back to work. Eating lunch in the office may seem like the easiest move, especially during a busy workday, but a quick break, especially outdoors does wonders for improving concentration, reducing stress levels, and boosting energy.
4. Social benefits – meet new people: The social aspect of getting out and about including simply chatting to the lady in the sandwich shop or the man in the park walking his dog can have immense benefit. You may even meet that really special someone who will change the direction of your life!
5. Lower chronic disease risk: Time outdoors lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, decreases stress hormones (cortisol levels), and eases muscle tension. Immune system problems, insomnia, and poor digestive function will all improve through quality time outdoors which means never ‘eating on the go’, especially when rushing around. The bowel is the second brain of the body and eating when moving about i.e. not eating consciouslycauses bowel and elimination problems. The act of sitting down and eating connects your digestive system harmoniously with brain and endocrine function to optimise digestion and nutritional absorption, so sit down and chew properly like your mum told you.
Eating a healthy lunch is important too, so don’t just grab a kebab or chips at lunchtime, but rather pack your own favourite sandwiches or salads and a healthy drink too like kefirfrom Waitrose. A favourite outdoor lunch of mine is a roast chicken and rice combo mixed with peppers, roasted nuts and raisins. Easily prepared the night before. And so colourful, healthy and delicious!
Share your favourite outdoor lunch tips in the comments section! Be sure to also sign-up for my weekly health and wellbeing blog for great health and wellbeing tips and advice.