I love being in nature and I don’t spend half as much time outdoors amongst nature as I would like to – how about you? I find that between work commitments, studying for my PT course, caring for my family and managing my house I have little time to stop and smell the flowers, so I have to make it really intentional to do so. But for the time I do have indoors, I like to make it feel more like the great outdoors with natural elements. There’s some interesting research around the health benefits of doing this which I’ll touch on today, and I’ve put together some examples of how you can bring natural elements into your home.
Why is interaction with nature important?
Did you know that we spend about 90% of our time indoors? It’s affecting our health, and in particular our mental health. Our interaction with nature (or lack of) affects our health, both physiological and psychological. A higher level of interaction with nature has been scientifically proven to enhance our feelings of wellbeing! As humans we have been created with something called ‘biophilia’, which means a love of nature and a desire to connect with other living systems. Do you feel like you experience biophilia?
How does nature affect our health?
Planet Ark has published a study detailing the benefits of spending time engaged in nature, which you can read about further here. The main areas that our health is affected are:
– Stress reduction: being surrounded by nature can reduce blood pressure, heart rate and the level of stress hormones in the body. I have experienced this calming effect of nature myself.
– Cognitive performance: nature can improve mental engagement, level of alertness and concentration.
– Emotional health: nature can improve happiness through raising positivity, providing a sense of tranquillity, pleasure, comfort and safety and can affect the dopamine levels in our bodies.
Wood is good.
There are quite a few studies out there that have focussed on the benefits of wood in particular on health and wellbeing. When wood has been incorporated into an indoor environment, either through structural design (say a benchtop, wall or floor boards) or additions such as furniture or décor there is a positive effect on our body. Incorporating wood into indoor design can produce stress reducing effects similar to the effect of being out in nature. It can reduce anxiety and improve feelings of wellbeing and self-esteem. Wood also improves air quality by regulating humidity indoors (absorbs moisture in humid conditions and releases it in dry conditions). Have you experienced any of these effects of wood?
3 Ways to improve your health by bringing nature indoors.
So, we know we are not spending as much time outside as we would like to. If you can prioritise and schedule in more outdoor time – that’s great. For example, swap your coffee/restaurant date for a picnic in the park. Although, sometimes we have commitments of work, study and family life that can’t always change immediately, making it hard to get outside and connect with nature. So how can you get the psychological and physiological benefits from nature for your health? Bring nature indoors! We need to create a connection with nature in our indoor environment. Here are three ways to do this.
Invest in some indoor plants
Having plants indoors can improve cognitive function and lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Not to mention they look great and are totally on trend right now. If you’re not a green thumb you can still have indoor plants, try a ‘forgiving plant’ such as a Pothos (I have a couple which I give very little attention and they somehow continue to grow), a Philodendron, an Umbrella Tree or an air plant. Even a cactus can improve your mood.
Increase the amount of wood in your home
Timber is a natural organic material that provides a connection with nature. There are so many ways to incorporate it into your home. Wooden furniture, picture frames, pot plant holders or ornaments are a great start. If you’re planning some renovations how about including floor boards or a wooden bench top? The important thing to remember when considering purchasing wood for renovations and projects is to make sure it is sustainably sourced and certified – always!
Wooden toys for kids
I also aim to buy toys for Finn that are wooden rather than plastic. They are more durable, have a natural hand feel and have a timelessness about them that I love! The other reason I opt for wooden toys is that they make a great heirloom. I have this beautiful wooden rocking horse that was given to me by my Pop. He found it in a clean up (definitely sustainably sourced on his part, haha) and stripped it back and repainted it. It is amazing! It’s solid wood and Finn now plays on it at my Mum’s house. Such a beautiful gift that has been loved by many generations – in someone else’s family and in our own!
Choose natural fibres
So many things in our lives are synthetic these days! When you are making decisions about fabrics in your home opt for natural fibres such as 100% cotton, linen or wool. These can be incorporated into your furnishings, cushions, throws or curtains.
I have indoor plants in almost every room in my house, they subconsciously improve my feeling of vitality. I also have wooden photo frames, bookshelves and décor. I like the unvarnished, raw look timber the best and I am working towards more natural fibres, both in my home and in my wardrobe where possibe!
Now it’s your turn!
So do you agree with the research? Have you experienced the health benefits of bringing nature indoors? How are you going to incorporate nature connected design into your indoor environment? Leave me a comment – I would love to know!