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Nature desktops to improve your mood

lookuptree-insideNone of my offices have a view. My writing office is in our (unfinished) basement and my window is blocked by one of those plastic bubbles you set over window wells. My office at the community mental health clinic is an interior one so it doesn’t have a window. And my private practice office is also on the lower level so the windows look out at a containing wall.

Researchers have found that we work and live better when we have time to commune with nature and that even looking at pictures of trees can lower blood pressure. This is why I take my desktop pictures very very seriously. If it weren’t for the images I download to my computer I’d hardly ever get to gaze out at something pretty during my workday.

Periodically I hide all the open apps on my desktop and stop everything to stare at a mountain stream or a rocky beach. It’s a quick way to remind myself to take a breath and think about the world outside. I imagine the sound of the wind winding its way through the tall grass on a meadow path. I picture myself leaning down to pick the flowers next to that river.

It takes me out of my work day for just long enough to dive back in. When I only have a few minutes between clients it can make a big difference in my focus.

I also change my pictures for the seasons. This year I brought spring to my desktop early since it was taking so long to get here in real life. Oh and if you have a Mac you can set the images to change themselves at regular intervals and mine switch every 30 minutes. I like this because when I’m closing applications I get to be surprised. Which view will be mine this time?

It’s a little thing but I find that it’s those little things that make all the difference most days.

Here are some of my favorite places to go to keep my desktop pretty:

  • National Geographic has a picture a day especially for you to download to your desktop. There are travel pictures here, too, if you need a more far-flung virtual vacation.
  • Hamad Darwis is a photographer who took some of the pictures that come with Windows Vista but most of his gorgeous images didn’t make the cut. He’s kindly made them available to download and install on your own and these are really spectacular (especially if you have a penchant for stunning beach scenery).
  • This is my most-used site for browsing when I’m wanting a desktop picture fix. InterfaceLIFT has a huge collection of images. If you’re a photographer you might especially like this site since the photographers who submit share the camera settings they used to get the pictures.
  • I don’t love the Desktop Nexus interface but there are a lot of pictures here so if you can stand an ugly web site to create more beauty in your life then you might want to check it out.

If you need instructions to install the pictures to your desktop, you can find them here. Note: For best effect make sure you know your monitor size. You don’t want to have to overstretch a small picture on your wide desktop — it’ll distort the image.


On a morning walk

shutterstock_162200084Out for a morning walk I passed a mom with her two preschool-aged kids and their respective push-toys. Two-ish year old girl with a pacifier and a wagon; three-ish year old boy with a shopping cart and what is clearly his favorite striped tiger toy. The mom was letting them lead the way, which meant they were going very s-l-o-w-l-y and even backtracking sometimes. Mom was strolling along next to them, pausing, taking a few steps back, helping a wheel get out of a rut and she had this contemplative calm about her that perfectly reflected the contented boredom that is time alone with small children.

I don’t miss those days but I miss those moments.

With my son it was a daily trip to a crab apple tree when he was about fifteen months old. We’d scuffle there (he was in his little moccasins, next best thing to being barefoot) and stop at every. little. thing. It was spring, the flowers were coming out and we would examine each bloom every day. Someone had Pooh Bear window clings in their front window and we’d stop and name them one by one. Finally at our destination, I’d sit on the curb while he picked up the little apples and threw them into the street.

He’d say, “App-o! App-o! Frow frow!” (Apple! Apple! Throw throw!) Every day the same thing until the apples became mush and it was summer and his shuffle turned into a run.

But before that our walk across the apartment complex courtyard and to the back of the first row of townhouses took at least an hour. We left mid-morning and got home in time for lunch but it felt like we were gone for years.

Oh god it was boring. But sweet. But boring. So boring that I would forget to breathe and then yawn so wide I felt like my jaw would dislocate.

Same thing with my daughter only by then our walks included her brother, who would take the dog around our tiny block in the time it took for his sister and me to toddle our way across three sidewalk squares stopping to poke sticks and drop pebbles into the sewer grate.

But at least we were outside. Rain or shine or snow, we tried to make it out for a change of scenery. After being cooped up indoors all those little blooms and blossoms and cracks in the sidewalk are little miracles to capture your kid’s attention so you can take something like a break. Sure, you have to make sure they don’t eat the stick or swallow a rock and you need to kneel down to kiss inevitable boo-boos when they stumble over something and yes, you have to acknowledge the apples, the car driving by, the crackling autumn leaf on the lawn or the dog on a walk with its owner. Sure, you have to do those things but at least you are moving (however slowly) and at least there is the scenery and dang, but your kids are adorable, which is what keeps you going above all else.

And then there is home to grilled cheese or PB&J cut into triangle quarters and a sticky sippy cup and peeled apples or halved grapes. It is a very small world, being home with small children.

I remember being the mom but I remember being the child, too, and that self-important sense of adventure contrasted so comfortingly with the familiarity of the bread your mother always buys with the grape jelly she knows you like.

There were good times, both sides and I miss the moments but I do not miss the days.

(This is a reprint from my now defunct old blog, this woman’s work. I wrote it in 2010.)

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