It’s no secret that our environments affect our well-being. Studies show that there are significant long-term health benefits to being in or around nature.
In healthcare settings, many facilities are bringing nature into their rooms because research has shown that “natural scenes are restorative, and are most liked when they have a depth perspective and an element of mystery.”
Educators are even embracing the positive impacts of students spending time outside. The positive effects of nature are being incorporated into learning with the utilization of outdoor classrooms which are touted as providing physical, cognitive, and psychological benefits for students.
Obviously spending time outdoors has great benefits for our minds and bodies but sometimes a trek through the jungle or a trip to the beach isn’t practical. No worries. Experts say even viewing scenes of nature “reduces anger, fear, and stress, and increases pleasant feelings.” Specifically, nature has the power to restore, soothe, heal, and increase our feelings of connectedness.
Here are some specific ways that scenic nature views help our mind and body.
A study done of 46 students showed that viewing scenic greeneries increased the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. Using EKGs, researchers found that when the participants viewed the natural images, their stress levels lowered. In addition to helping reduce stress, studies have shown that participants who viewed a scenic view prior to being exposed to a stressor had enhanced recovery and were, thus, better able to handle the stressor.
Research has shown that “viewing nature… pictures significantly improved executive attention in both older and young adults…”. Executive attention refers to a part of the brain responsible for drawing on internal information and memories to adapt our thoughts and behaviors. Executive attention is vital to planning, decision-making, and correcting errors, among other things. Increased executive attention means your mind is clearer and better able to focus on important tasks without interference from unnecessary or unrelated thoughts.
It’s not surprising, then, to know that one study showed that “adequate lighting did not make up for office workers’ dissatisfaction with their windowless setting and ‘almost 50 percent thought that the lack of windows affected them or their work adversely’.” Accordingly, many of today’s companies are beginning to utilize Biophilic Design – the incorporation of nature into the workplace – to improve productivity and overall employee wellness. From photos to potted plants to aquariums and landscape light diffusers, today’s companies recognize the value of nature in the office.
In addition to the soothing effects of nature, physical benefits have been shown to include everything from reduced blood pressure to increased ability to sleep. In fact, experts say studies done in hospitals, offices, and schools revealed that even having a simple plant in a room can help with anxiety and stress.
One popular study showed that patients in a Pennsylvania hospital who underwent gallbladder surgery were assigned different types of rooms: 23 with a window view and 23 with a view of a brick wall. The patients who were given rooms with windows “had shorter postoperative hospital stays, received fewer negative evaluative comments in nurses’ notes, and took fewer potent analgesics,” supporting the theory that nature heals.
A study conducted by University of Michigan researchers found that participants who walked in nature – regardless of the outside temperature – had a 20 percent increase in memory performance and attention spans. Attention Restoration Therapy is the theory that exposure to natural elements helps our brains to rest from the frequent overload of stimulation in busy, non-scenic environments. When we are bombarded with stimuli, our brains get “fatigued” and natural elements have been found to be “particularly rich in the characteristics necessary” for our minds to relax, refocus, and be restored.
Scientists have researched what is called evidence-based healthcare design, a theory that focuses on the well-being and recovery of hospital patients. Evidence shows overwhelmingly that exposure to windows or other natural landscapes aids hospital patients in many aspects of recovery – pain tolerance, heart rate, etc. – as well as their families and even hospital staff.
In the absence of naturally occurring scenic views, scientists say the incorporation of “psychologically appropriate” artwork is equally as powerful in the recovery process. Specifically, their research discovered that waterscapes, natural landscapes, flowers, and gardens, as well as figurative art showing emotionally positive gestures and facial expressions, had the most positive effects. Conversely, “abstract or ambiguous images or emotionally challenging subject matter can evoke dislike or other distinctly negative reactions among patients.”
Feeling connected to nature is a proven way to improve happiness and health but sometimes we don’t have the option to take a stroll in a beautiful garden. Biophilia is the human’s natural need to be connected with nature. Research has found that simply staring at a scenic view for 40 seconds was enough to “trigger the brain into a more relaxed state.”
Aside from these benefits, research has shown that – particularly in work environments – the lights are predominantly almost double what they should be which can result in headaches, neck soreness, and even double vision which can not only interfere with our productivity and well-being but also affect our “biological functions and emotions.”
Whether you are in an office, hospital, basement, or classroom, the benefits of having scenic views to enhance the atmosphere cannot be overstated. The lack of natural light can have many negative effects and in today’s advanced world of technology, often we are unable to escape the concrete jungle in favor of a more relaxing environment. This makes it important to incorporate nature in our most creative ways.
Sky-Scapes believes that nature and fun should be a part of an intelligent design so we have built a comprehensive, proven way to bring the outdoors, in. Utilizing our creative light diffusers, our customers report everything from calmer, happier students to helping dental patients to relax before dental treatments.
With a large selection of various themes – from nature to animals – we invite you to contact us today to find just the right selection for you.
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